by Jonathan Daugherty
This is a common question we receive in our ministry. It is often born out of a sense of shame and the idea that certain addictions are permanently embedded into a person’s character. Sexual addiction is one of those addictions that society often deems as “untreatable” and therefore should define a person for a lifetime (think pedophilia). But God’s grace isn’t just for those with “little” sins. His grace extends beyond ALL sin.
The difficulty in answering this question is that no one lives life perfectly, even in recovery. A guy (or gal) might get into a recovery program and take great strides to eliminating various thoughts and behavior patterns associated with his sexual acting out. Then, as is always the case, there are challenges that must be faced in this recovery process. Not the least of which is taking on that first overwhelming temptation to act out. Not everyone wins that initial battle. But that doesn’t mean they are tossed out of the ring. No, true recovery is about getting back up and fighting some more.
The real trouble I have with this question is that it misidentifies the person struggling with the addiction. It says they ARE a sex addict, instead of saying they are a person struggling with sexual addiction. It might seem a small distinction, but it’s huge in recognizing where the real battle lies. To identify a person only by the sinful behaviors they engage in is foolish and demeaning. Every human being is of limitless worth, made in the very image of God. This gives intrinsic value that overshadows behavior. Christ died for ALL. Therefore, all human beings are worth loving (from God’s perspective).
When a person realizes God’s unconditional love for them and accepts the free gift of forgiveness and life that is found in Christ, their identity is shaped around Jesus, not their behavior. The irony is that from this growing embrace of identity in Christ comes a lessening of acting out behaviors. Why? Because the individual begins to see themselves the way God sees them, as a precious and priceless son or daughter of the King. And a child of the King grows up to become more and more like his Father: pure and holy.
When people ask me how I identify myself in a support group setting (such as visiting a SAA or CR group), I tell them that I say, “Hi, my name is Jonathan. I’m a child of God who struggles with lust.” My identity is in my relationship to God. My weakness is in fighting my lust. But I take heart because God’s power is made perfect in weakness.
No, by God’s grace, I am not a sex addict. And you don’t have to be either…