Going Deeper

Holistic Sobriety and Safe Fellowship

"I’m so proud that The Salvation Army is a place that I can invite any person to experience safe belonging." by Reverend Diane Ury

A few days before Christmas 2023, my aunt was killed by a drunk driver. She was just a few years older than I am—a vivacious, loving mother, grandmother, wife, friend and sister. Instantly snatched away by a young man’s addiction. It was his third DUI.

Alcoholism has been a devastating force in both my family and my husband’s for generations. And I’m not only talking about deaths – there’s destruction of hearts and emotions, too. For that reason, my parents stayed clear of alcohol their entire lives, and so have I. So has the Army from its beginning.

When I first became acquainted with our Soldier’s Covenant, I was truly thrilled to find our commitment: “I will abstain from alcoholic drink, tobacco, the non-medical use of addictive drugs, gambling, pornography, the occult and all else that could enslave the body or spirit.” Those words made me feel deeply loved and cared for by those who offered that freedom and safety to me, and to anyone else in the Army who might have a genetic disposition to alcoholism.

A life of holiness is formed by the Triune God pouring Himself into us. His essence is others-oriented, self-offering, sacrificial love. When we abide in Him, we love like He loves. “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility consider one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interest, but also for the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3-4 NASB).

Alcohol is known to be a preventable cause of death in the United States. There is evidence that one in five deaths of young adults is attributable to excessive alcohol use.  

When I was a young adults pastor (in another denomination) I offered fellowship together twice a week at least. We had a blast and were quite silly sometimes. These adults, ages 17 to 35, loved church—to learn the Bible, how to know Jesus, how to pray and to play hard. Sometimes I wondered why in the world they were so faithful in coming. In our church group they felt safe. 

Now this is important: I came to understand that what each young person is desperately longing for is a friend with whom they can hang out, seek God, be real—someone who does not offer them an alcoholic drink. Do you know how hard it is in this cultural moment for someone struggling with substance addiction to find any place in any kind of context where alcohol is not being offered to them!  

I’m so proud that The Salvation Army is a place that I can invite any person to experience safe belonging. I know that my friends who are secretly in agony over their private addictions can come to all kinds of events we offer and not be tempted with a beer thrust in their face.

“So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do. Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit” (Ephesians 5:15-18).

I’ve seen a photo of the man who killed my aunt. He looks just like my church guys. How I wish I’d known him, and that he had known the Army, an entire mission filled with people who aren’t deceived by the grip of addiction. So, we offer a place “where everyone knows your name,” and safe fellowship in Jesus. 

Of course, many wonderful Christian people regularly drink alcohol and have no ill effects. Salvationists are concerned about people who do have ill effects. A definition of holiness is self-sacrificial love that puts another’s well-being ahead of one’s own. “Don’t be concerned for your own good, but for the good of others” (1 Corinthians 10:24).  

Questions to ponder

  • How can you create places in your life where anyone can find belonging and safety?
  • Do you or someone you know struggle with dependency on alcohol or another drug? If so, what might be one way of finding hope for them or for yourself?  
  • Perhaps you don’t struggle with chemical dependency, but are there areas of your life that are oppressive? Habits or behaviors that you need the Lord to free you from?
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