I had a new life experience yesterday. With Mondays as my day off from work, I went skiing with my boyfriend. The lines were short since Mondays are a slower day and we were ushered straight through the lift line and onto the gondola to ascend the mountain. The gondola is completely enclosed with a small window along the top to keep the air balanced in the inside of the lift. We had only pulled away from the boarding station when the four others in our small pod began chit chatting with us. They were very nice people from Baltimore who come and spend a full month in Colorado skiing. Being quite impressed, I asked “Wow, you come all the way out here to ski?” and the youngest of the group said, “And smoke marijuana”. The eldest of the group then pulled out a joint and said, “You don’t mind if we smoke, do you?” and lit up.
If you have missed the news, Colorado made marijuana legal recently. I am confused how it works out, as it is still illegal federally, but whatever the case, I saw it face to face yesterday for the first time.
Should, can Christians smoke marijuana?
This might sound a little extreme. It is still an illegal drug throughout most of the United States, and as I noted earlier, even though it is legal according to the state of Colorado, the federal government still forbids it. And we, as Christians, are commanded to obey the laws of the land. So this might be a non-issue.
Or is it?
Christianity is not established in our culture. Jesus was a Jew. He lived 2000 years ago and His culture – as well as the variety of cultures and times within the Bible – are not our own. We have traditionalized a variety of practices within our society that we consider “Christian” that are not Biblical mandates or necessary to be a follower of Jesus Christ.
Let me tell you a story. There is a tribe of a few million people in South East Asia. All of their neighboring tribes were converted to Islam in the 13th century, but being cannibals and pig hearders, they did not convert with the majority. In the early 1800’s, two missionaries from Boston went to engage these people and were murdered and eaten. Then Dutch and German missionaries returned to take their place. Seeing the care of the Christians, the tribe, by and large, came to faith in Jesus Christ. The missionaries, however, were confused in their application of the faith to these new believers. They built a European church building with a steeple and a cross amidst all of the existing huts. They required these people who take their shoes off to enter every building to wear shoes into the church (a sign of disrespect and considered dirty culturally). They told these new, tribal believers that they need to wear a coat and tie to come to church and they translated western hymns into their language as hymns are, after all, the music of the faith.
This is an actual photo of some of the tribe’s men in 1870:
This is what their houses looked like, and still look like today:
And this is a church built there:
Jesus did not wear a coat and tie. He took his sandals off at the door when entering into a house, and had His feet washed as they would become dirty throughout the day. Jesus did not sing hymns with a piano or organ. These are cultural adaptations of Biblical truths that the missionaries utilized in their worship of God.
Jesus came to redeem peoples in their own cultures. The Bible clearly teaches us that murder and cannibalism are sins. Therefore, this aspect of the tribe’s culture had to change in order to honor God. But building a western church building, wearing ties and shoes and singing western hymns is not mandated by God, and therefore does not have to be adopted by cultures to glorify Him.
This might seem silly to you. Of course we do not have to make people “American” in order to be Christians or followers of Christ. But how, then, do we handle an ever-evolving culture like our own? Many cultures around the world are rich in heritage and slowly change. But American and western culture has been transforming generationally since the Industrial Revolution. Some of us love tradition and heritage and some of us love change. The Bible tells us to remember the tradition of the past, and also to sing a new song (2 Thess 3.6, Ps 33.3, 96.1)! To let God transform our lives (2 Cor 5.17).
The litmus test is simply this: Does this honor God? I heard recently that there is a strain of marijuana that is helping children who have epilepsy. You can read the news story that accounts a young child being freed from seizures by the drug here. This is a legitimate medicinal use healing a chronic illness, and appears to be taking marijuana to a new level. Opiates went through this debate and transformation years ago.
But the Bible is extremely clear that we are to be sober minded:
“And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit…”
– Eph 5.18
Be sober-minded; be watchful.
– 1 Peter 5.8
But Peter goes on to explain why we must be sober minded:
Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.
– 1 Peter 5.8-9
We must keep our minds alert so that we can resist the devil and maintain a life of holiness unto God. Lions roar to make their presence known. They are confident enough in their strength to hunt their prey and defeat them that they can boast. The enemy is strong and cunning, and he does not need to sneak up on us because he knows how to ensnare us. And allowing our minds and wits to be influenced by anything that dulls our senses or control gives him an in. We must remain in control.
We also must take care of our bodies as good stewards of the gifts that God has given, and we all know the negative effects that drugs and alcohol have on our bodies.
Therefore, I would argue that numbing our brains is sinful and even while it is culturally becoming more acceptable, we should refrain.
But every aspect of our culture must be analyzed in this fashion. If it appears to be morally neutral and is not prohibited by God, then we must consider our motivation for participating in it: Am I doing this unto God? In the name of Christ? For His glory?
Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
– 1 Cor 10.31
Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.
– Col 3.17