And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. Romans 12:2
National Geographic (September, 2017) has an excellent article about addiction that includes many behavioral addictions which are just recently being seen as destructive, life-altering dependencies. Research indicates the changes that occur in the brain, chemistry, and synapses that actually “remold neural circuits to assign supreme value to [the substance or behavior], at the expense of other interests such as health, work, family, or life itself.” Eventually, the addict has no control of his/her behavior because his brain material and functions have essentially been reshaped.
This makes me think of Paul, in chapter 7 of Romans, who talks about not doing what he wants to do but behaving in a contrary fashion. Paul isn’t talking about addiction here but rather the sin principle that’s part of each of us. Later, in Romans 12 he zeroes in on the problem that we all struggle with—being conformed to the world (complying with the secular world’s standards). We become so entangled with cultural mores and contemporary lifestyles that we excuse the sin that’s taken root in us.
Paul’s remedy sounds just like the treatments that are being offered to addicts in new medical trials. Researchers are talking about and experimenting with “repairing the brain’s wiring”—what Paul states as “transformation of the mind.” In both instances, there must be voluntary participation. With the medical trials, the patient must want a change. God’s remedy infers that each of us must cooperate with the work of the Holy Spirit by “renewing” our minds, exchanging those deadly, sinful thoughts and behaviors for godly, wholesome patterns. This sounds to me like the “rewiring” with which today’s medical community is experimenting.
Science knows that continued behaviors set the synapses in pathways that are difficult to disrupt, but the Creator who initially put our bodies in motion also provided healing for us to be transformed. In fact, he’s given us everything we need for life and godliness (II Peter 1:3)—the provision is already there. He’s given us the Holy Spirit, his Word, the community of believers that we call the Church, and he’s given us science and the medical profession.
We have to make the choice for transformation, and it’s one that should be made every single day so that we’re free from any bondage that diminishes us as Children of God. Whether the addiction is something frowned on by society or is seemingly as innocent as negativity or disruptive thought patterns, if it controls us, we need to be set free. God has the answer; we can be changed.
Father, it’s easy for us to see the sins in the lives of others without seeing the things that trip us up in our own lives and relationships. Give us the courage to identify anything in ourselves that entangles us and keeps us from freedom in you. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.