Observation 1: If your goal is transformation . . .
As I’ve been working the steps (slightly modified), and talking to various friends and church folks about them, I’ve noticed a common reaction, typically non-verbal, which I guess can best be summarized as ‘perplexed’. After I confirm I don’t even like alcohol and don’t have any ‘bad’ addictions, the question on their faces seems to be: “Why would a Christian without an overt addiction problem do the steps?”
Obviously, some of these questions stem from an ignorance about the steps and what they’re really designed to do–but that’s for another post. Another reason for the perplexity is a general idea of what we think God is hoping to accomplish in the world through Jesus, and we don’t see how the steps figure into that. In a nutshell, if Christianity is–at its core–about ‘getting saved (from hell)’, why go through the steps absent a typical-kind of addiction problem? And from that standpoint, I’d have to agree; the steps would be tangential at best to Christianity, though extremely practical for living well.
But what if God’s goal and hope in sending Jesus is not just to save us from the ultimate consequences of our sin, but from “our sin” itself? What if his goal is to get his way on earth more like he does in heaven; to make human rebels into happily cooperative family; to overthrow the functional leadership of self, money and all that causes evil? What if re-creating people into the character of Jesus is the goal, and honest, maybe even desperate, communities of people are the best raw materials? What if a gospel ‘response’ is about saying ‘yes’ to God’s leadership through Christ, then learning how to actually live that ‘yes’ out with God and other folks on the same Path?
I want to throw out the thought that to the extent that one becomes gripped by a gospel of the latter kind, by the thought that how we learn to live is the only kind of worship that matters, the AA program in general will start looking like one of the most logical ways an individual and group could respond to what God has in mind and what he offers. (For me, becoming really centered on the latter instead of the former was a process that took several years.) Ironically, in this effort of transformation, one becomes especially thankful for God’s amazing forgiveness for falling short, because that forgiveness is put into a dynamic context and pursuit of a very high goal, issuing from the very heart of God: re-creation in the likeness of his Son, letting God reign on earth, through Jesus, just like he does in heaven.
More on why the steps are so appropriate and functional as a response to the gospel, and on my own experience with them, later.