Rick Lawrence

Rick (rlawrence@group.com and @RickSkip on Twitter) has been editor of GROUP Magazine for over 25 years. He’s the author of the recently released revised edition of the popular title, "Jesus-Centered Youth Ministry," "99 Thoughts on Jesus-Centered Living," the LIVE small-group curriculum Jesus-Centered Living, and wrote the books "Sifted: God’s Scandalous Response to Satan’s Outrageous Demand" (www.siftedbook.com) and "Shrewd: Daring to Live the Startling Command of Jesus" (www.shrewdbook.com) as an excuse to immerse himself in the presence of Jesus.

I told my senior pastor that I sometimes feel like my love for Jesus has crossed over into addiction. I mean, I’m so captured by Him and “ruined” for Him that I can’t imagine myself apart from Him. And my pastor frowned at me, leaned forward, and said: “I don’t think addiction in any form is a good thing, including an addiction to God. Addiction is never what God intended for us in our relationship with Him.”

Well, is he right about that? Is it wrong to make the “end game” of our life with Jesus a relationship that is so close, and so dependent, that it could legitimately be labeled an “addiction”? Put another way, is “addiction” the pinnacle of a Jesus-centered life?

I’ve often pointed to Peter’s response to Jesus in John 6—after the crowds have abandoned Him and He’s asked His disciples if they’re going to jump ship, too—as the perfect snapshot of discipleship. Peter’s response (verses 68-69) to Jesus’ “Are you going to leave to?” is simple and blunt: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.” My psychological translation of Peter’s response is: “I don’t understand all this ‘Eat My body and drink My blood’ stuff, and I don’t always ‘get’ you, but I’m ruined for you—I can’t give you up.”

Is Peter confessing his “addiction” to Jesus? And if he is, does Jesus’ “lose your life for My sake” challenge essentially translate to an invitation to make Him our addiction in life?

Specialists say there is a “life cycle” to our addictions. Gary W. Smith, executive director of Narconon Arrowhead, explains: “The life cycle of addiction begins with a problem, discomfort or some form of emotional or physical pain a person is experiencing. The person finds this very difficult to deal with… The difference between which one of us becomes an addict and which one does not depends on whether or not, at the time of this traumatic experience, we are subjected to pro-drug or alcohol influences via some sort of significant peer pressure… The painkilling effects of drugs or alcohol become a solution to the discomfort because the person experiences relief from the negative feeling associated with the problem. As soon as the addict experiences relief from the discomfort, he inadvertently attaches value to the drug or drink, because it helped him feel better… At this point, it is just a matter of time before the person becomes fully addicted and loses the ability to control their drug use.”

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Under this definition of addiction, my pastor is 100% right. Our love relationship with Jesus must remain voluntary—in fact, God’s plan to redeem our relationship with Him so honors the dignity of “voluntary” that He sacrificed His own son, rather than forcing a reconciliation on us. It’s in our choosing to remain in Jesus, sometimes in spite of our “unrewarded” life with Him, that we are given the greatest gift we’ll ever receive—the opportunity to give back to God what He has given us; our unconditional love. Unconditional love must be given freely, not under the coercion of addiction. We can never need what Jesus does for us more than we need Him for Himself, and Himself alone.

Rick / @RickSkip




  P.S.- Rick’s next book is coming soon! Keep an eye out for Jesus-Centered Youth Ministry: Moving from Jesus-plus to Jesus-only! 


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  • Josh says:

    Generally a A good post. My one issue is that this then very narrows addiction to drug or alcohol based, and I think that’s a problem. ANYTHING can be an addiction. Behavior, food, sex, fighting, etc. Lots of things can become addictive and I think it’s important to highlight that

    • Rick Lawrence says:

      Josh, thanks for reading, and thanks for weighing in… I thought I was making the very case you’re pointing out, so I regret no making it more clear…

  • Thanks for this clarification. I think the terminology is relevant, but the application is slightly off.

  • Madame B says:

    WOW. That is pretty amazing! I never thought that God would not want us to be addicted in our relationship. He wants a healthy relationship with us, not an overdependent and needy relationship. He wants us to come nearer based on a reasonable and functional manner not in a dysfunctional manner. In the dysfunction, we are not really in a relationship, we are just using him to get by to the next high. MERCY

    • Rick Lawrence says:

      Thanks so much, MadameB—dysfunction is the plain symptom of our fundamental sin, but we get taste the miracle of our redemption when we give our unconditional love back to Jesus…

  • It makes sense to me. Addiction is not relationship. That was my first thought right off the bat. And I agree with your pastor’s comment about that not being what God wants for us. When we view God; or our relationship with God, as an addiction, that changes the way we relate to him. Addictions are about us and our needs. Our relationship with God should be about our ability to be present with God and share life together.
    Just some quick thoughts for the sake of conversation. Thanks. Blessings.

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