Backsliding and Relapsing

Those of us who grew up in church are familiar with the term “backsliding.”Our modern usage comes from the King James translation of a couple of different Old Testament Hebrew words referring to the Israelites turning away from God’s plan for their lives.I even found a Wikipedia article about it.

Growing up, we would say someone was backsliding when they missed church and started living like they used to live.The answer was for them to come back to church and rededicate their lives to the LORD.I saw that happen quite a bit (and even did it a couple of times, myself!).As I understood it back then, this rededication was a one-time life changing experience, like my born again salvation experience.But I keep noticing that these rededications (theirs and mine) never seemed to last very long.

When I came to Helping Up Mission as the Spiritual Life Director, I tried to make the Bible relevant to the men in our Program.But it was very frustrating to see a guy do well for months and then relapse.Why couldn’t he just stay the course and keep working at his recovery?

Then, one day I got an insight.The guys at Helping Up Mission relapse for the same reason church folks backslide – both just quit doing, one day at a time, the right things they had been doing.The reason my rededication(s) didn’t continue was because I saw it as a onetime commitment that would just magically carry me along day after day. But rededication only works if we rededicate ourselves to it every day.

We know that church people backslide, in fact, we get used to it.They (we!) don’t have to backslide, but it often happens – even again and again.But the rest of us don’t usually get too worked up about it, because it’s just one of those things that happen in church life.

Addicts and alcoholics relapse.They don’t have to, but it often happens – even again and again – and we can get pretty worked up about their “backsliding back into addiction.”Admittedly, this is serious business and their very lives are often at stake, but we should never give up on them either.God knows where they are, can meet them there and empower them back to recovery and a spiritual walk.

So, don’t give up on your backsliding church friend…but don’t give up on your relapsing recovery friend, either.Neither one is necessarily any worse than the other – both are just in need of God’s empowerment, everyday, one day at a time.

Just a sinner saved by grace and walking one day at a time,
Pastor Gary Byers
Spiritual Life Director