Many of the talks I give are in settings with evangelical Christians, and there is sometimes an unwritten expectation that the solutions offered in these settings should fit a specific schema. If the steps suggested for healing and recovery don’t sound “spiritual” enough, people get nervous. I recently gave a talk, and got the question “What about the power of God? Where is the power of Christ to bring healing in all this?”
I had emphasized the need for people to get into recovery groups with other guys, to get honest, and establish boundaries around sexual behavior (among other things). But to people used to hearing messages where the solution to every problem boils down to more prayer / Bible study / evangelism, this probably sounded a little spiritually weak.
I have great respect for people who are devout, and who seek growth and healing in life from habits that arise out of their faith. But too many Christians make the mistake of seeing God’s work only in the mysterious and subjective. In an email response to the organizers of the event, here is what I said about this issue:
I’ve been thinking about our talk, after I spoke at your event, and the question that came up about whether there had been enough emphasis on God’s power to help us change. I appreciate that concern, and will make sure I emphasize this point more in future presentations … the key issue for Christian men to find healing from ongoing sexual sin (especially if it’s compulsive or addictive behavior) is to end their isolation and access the power of God through genuine community with other Christian men.
My experience has been that most of the men I work with have genuinely sought God’s help to overcome their sexual addiction, but they have expected this healing to somehow magically come into their lives in answer to their prayers. Instead, God extends his grace into our lives through people (I Peter 4:10-11).
So if one asks, “Where is the power of Christ fit into the plan of healing that I describe in my talks?” The answer is that Christ’s power comes into our lives as we get honest with other Christian men, and allow other people to be part of our lives in a genuine way (as opposed to living in isolation with our secret lives).
If anything, I emphasize the human side of this equation because the men I work with have heard many sermons urging them to trust God more, seek God more, pray more, memorize more scripture … but they do those things and still find themselves fighting a losing battle with sexual temptation.
It should come as no surprise that genuine friendships are the missing link — and a very biblical solution — when you look again at how essential community was to Jesus (how he spent all his time with the disciples), and Paul and the other NT leaders (they were always doing stuff in teams, and spending time in peoples’ homes). Think of the passage, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” Prov 27:17). This can be applied in all kinds of ways, but part of its power is in the way that genuine friendships can help us overcome our insecurities and selfishness, and help us stay consistent with the limits we establish with the things we do.