Humanoholics Anonymous

By Jim Barringer

I wrote recently about the philosophy of the movie “Fight Club” – the main character discovers that material possessions don’t bring happiness or meaning in life, embarks on a journey to find significance, and fails because he’s looking in all the wrong places. Last night I was watching the movie again, to see if there was anything that I had missed the first time, and I noticed something else. It has to do with support groups.

Jack, the protagonist, has insomnia, and becomes addicted to addiction recovery groups, support groups for people with terminal diseases, and things like that, because they’re the only place he can find emotional release. He knows that, as a human, he’s wired to be in touch with his emotions, but the life he has built for himself – a mediocre corporate job, no close relationships, nothing interesting happening – fails to satisfy his emotional needs. We as Christians understand why: fulfillment is only to be found in Christ. But I want to focus on the idea of a recovery group as a metaphor for humanity.

Every addiction-recovery outfit has two ingredients. First, it has people who have a problem. Second, it has someone who knows the solution and can guide everyone toward it. This is usually someone who doesn’t have the problem himself. Either he was never an addict, or he has mastered his addiction; he is in a state that the rest of the addicts are aspiring to reach.

Now imagine humanity as a recovery group. Each of us has the same problem, which we in our faith call sin, but you don’t have to be a Christian to know what I’m talking about. What I mean is that we can’t stop doing bad things. No matter how hard we try, we keep doing and thinking things that hurt people or would hurt people if they were known. We don’t just break the moral code of the universe, if there is one; we violate our own moral code, doing things we claim to hate, doing things that we hate when they’re done to us. We’re addicts to sin.

Who could lead a recovery group for people like that? Not another human. Enlightenment can’t come from Buddha, or Muhammad, or Doctor Phil, because they’re humans and they have the same problem that the rest of humanity has. The only one who can help us recover is someone who is free from sin. But if all humans have that problem, who can possibly be free from sin?

God could, but God has never had the addiction. Some people might ask what right he has to lecture us on an addiction he has not experienced. It would be very easy for me to tell an alcoholic, “Just quit drinking already,” because I’m utterly ignorant of how difficult such a thing actually is. Of course, God does know about humanity, more intimately than we do in fact, since he invented it. We view humanity subjectively because we’re experiencing it, but he views it objectively because he’s outside it. Regardless, someone could object that God is up in his ivory tower, without much to say to the earthlings down below.

So we can see that the ideal candidate to lead our sin-recovery group is someone who is not a prisoner to sin the way we are, but not distant from us the way God is. In short, we’re talking about someone who combines all the best aspects of God and humanity. What a coincidence: more than 2,000 years ago, that is exactly what was claimed about Jesus, who was fully man (not distant like God) but also fully God (not an addict to sin).

Jesus is perfectly placed to understand our sin addiction. Hebrews says about him, “He is able to deal gently with those who are ignorant and going astray, since he himself is subject to weakness…tempted in every way, just as we are, yet without sin” (5:2, 4:15). He is also perfectly God. The apostle Paul wrote about him, “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form” (Colossians 2:9). He is fully God, as perfect and sinless as God is, yet he is also fully man, understanding what it means to live in a sinful world. Fully God, yet fully man. He’s the only possible mediator for our sin-recovery group.

And of course, according to any 12-step program, the first step to getting help is to admit that you have a problem. To recover from sin, the first thing you must do is admit that you are a sinner and that you cannot fix your addiction yourself. You’ve tried, and you’ve done the best you could, but it’s just not good enough. Once you know that you’ve sinned and will never in your life be good enough to earn God’s favor, the next step is obvious: throw yourself on his mercy, and let him have control of your life so that he can do better with it than you can. He’ll start teaching you the right way to live so that you can follow his principles instead of your own selfish plan. Even that won’t stop you from messing up, but you know that your salvation comes from his grace, not from your own actions.

Anyone with half a brain can see that humanity has a problem. We have tried and failed, for however long humanity has existed, to bring about economic justice, just and upright politicians, international peace, and the abolition of crime. All has failed, because we are still humanity, still plagued by our unstoppable addiction to sin. Without recovery, without mediation by someone who is perfectly God and perfectly man, we have no hope. Thankfully, though, through the person of Jesus, we not only have hope for this life, but for a glorious eternity when sin will be a thing of the past – we will all be fully recovered – and we can live together, in peace and harmony, the way we should have been all along.

Jim Barringer is a 26-year-old writer, musician, and teacher serving at The Church of Life (.com) in Orlando, FL. More of his work can be found at facebook.com/jmbarringer and ExtantMagazine.com. This work may be reprinted for any purpose so long as this bio and statement of copyright is included.

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