In his excellent book Addiction and Grace, Gerald May reports common sentiments he has heard across the years of his work with people addicted to alcohol and narcotics.
In one part of a hospital he would hear those struggling against addiction to alcohol say with satisfaction, “Well, at least we’re not junkies.”
On the other side of the same hospital ward he’d listen to those addicted to drugs prop up their pride by saying, “Well, at least we’re not winos” (p.10).
As we see what troubled Dr. May, it brings us to our own moment of clarity. We can never break free from anything if we are content to smugly congratulate ourselves for not being as bad as someone we consider beneath us.
I think that’s one reason the Bible says in Proverbs 28:13: “One who conceals his wrongdoings will not prosper, but one who confesses and abandons them will find compassion” (NASB). We cannot cover up our own pain and problems by pointing out someone else’s weaknesses and struggles. Grace and freedom do not come to us when we are putting down others. It is only when we can confess the truth about ourselves that we can take steps toward freedom.
First John 1:8-9 helps us catch the vision of that level of honesty and renewal: “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (NIV). Our future is clean, and our days are renewed with hope and acceptance as we walk by the light of a new path.
The arms of Jesus are wide open. He has amazing grace for “junkies” and lavish love for “winos.” God wants nothing more than to erase our sins and give us a new identity to take the place of whatever names we’ve been called. The put-downs and derision give way to being called the sons and daughters of God.