Guest Writer: Josh Graves

josh.jpgThe following post was written by Josh Graves of Rochester, Michigan.  Josh teaches Religion at Rochester College.  He is also the teaching and young adult minister at the Rochester Hills Church of Christ.  His first book, Jesus Feast: Spirituality for the Hungry, will soon be available (Leafwood Press).  You can read his blog, "Jesus Feast," here.  Josh is a good thinker and writer.  He has written a very fine post below. 

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Addicts — All of Us

In Second Corinthians, Paul writes, “. . . there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’”

*Maybe this is about demonic activity (Paul’s more charismatic than most care to admit).
*Maybe this is describing a specific/occasional sin (he travels for a living, after all).
*Maybe Paul’s describing doubt (a person of such deep faith has to doubt too).
*Perhaps Paul is depressed (he has good reason).
*Paul’s eyes are going bad (c.f. Galatians 4:13 and 6:11).
*Those false teachers are finally getting under his skin (the revenge of the Ninevites).
*Could it be a reference to Paul’s speech impediment/lack of oratory flash?

All of the previous are possible. I want to introduce a different way to read this text. It might work in the church more than it would in the academy (which is fine with me).

What if Paul is describing an addiction?

Here’s what I mean when I use the word addiction. I probably mean something different than what you think of when you hear or use the word. Addiction is “the repeated surrender to a power/force that prevents us from being the person God created us to be.” That is, addiction might be more prevalent than we think.

Paul is very articulate about this current condition in his life. First, he says he prayed repeatedly for the removal (three times). This prayer for deliverance could span several months or years, we simply don’t know. Second, Paul prays for the removal of something that is preventing Paul from knowing God more deeply. Third, the word for “thorn” insinuates something that pierces, a power that presses in. Sin is not merely about making good choices. It’s also about recognizing that there is a power at work in the world which seeks to smother, dominate, and oppress. This should not surprise us. A power that loves to “steal, kill, and destroy” — to quote Jesus.

We are good at recognizing the obvious addictions: sex, gambling, porn, alcohol, drugs, and eating. But, if we pay attention to our lives, most everyone I know wrestles with addictions that are less obvious. However, just because something is less obvious does not mean it is less deadly or destructive.

Some of us have “covert” addictions: drama, anger, fighting, thrill, avoidance, shopping, TV, film, gossip, vanity, clothes, racial jokes, sports, gender exploitation, comfort, power, Internet, blogging, e-mail, funny you-tube videos.

An addiction is the place we go when we want to hide from God. God’s world is so big; we think we can get away from God. But we can’t. Because it’s God’s big world. Not ours. As long as we are unable to identify the “thorns” in our collective life together, we will not be able to fully experience Jesus as the one who liberates from the powers of this present darkness.

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What other "covert" addictions have you observed besides the ones Josh mentions? 

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3 thoughts on “Guest Writer: Josh Graves

  1. Excellent list. This is so true and I can recognize which addiction/s are of concern to me. Sometimes when I think that the Lord and I have dealt with one, then another comes to my awareness. Another I’ve observed is people being too busy even with good things – overextended in ministry;a busyness the Lord never intended for us. Thankfully He is still working on each one of us.

  2. Work. It seems that men are especially susceptible to this one. “Work”aholics who work a lot of hours and even when they aren’t at work they’re thinking about it. Keeps a person from having to relate to family or friends or even God.