May 24, 2019

The Love Of Jesus Is Enough: A Meditation on Morality

NOTE: I have chosen not to post a larger number of comments than usual. If you want to know why comments aren’t posted consult the IM F.A.Q. where this is addressed in one of the questions.

I could have posted some perfect examples of moral reasoning following our love, but I think the point is clearly made.

I recently searched my email archives and found a letter from a reader about the use of marijuana by a Christian. It reminded me of why I am more than a bit annoyed at the unhelpful moral reasoning that leaves out Jesus.

First, the highlights of the letter:

1) Almost everyone in America smokes marijuana or assumes it’s not wrong. (A statement that is factually untrue and if so, means nothing to the Christian. Great portions of the Bible were written to people living in empires and kingdoms that insisted everything from child sacrifice to emperor worship was universally the right thing to do.)

2) It’s no different than moderate use of alcohol. (Again, factually untrue from any number of angles, but it doesn’t matter. In scripture, comparing one thing to another without reference to God is meaningless. Similarities between legal and illegal behaviors don’t address why we make those distinctions. Why is it illegal to have sex with a consenting 17 year old but not with a consenting 18 year old? And the question for the Christian isn’t anything like “How is smoking week like drinking?”)

3) It doesn’t affect my life as a Christian. (Excuse me for appearing to know more about you than you do, but that’s simply not true either. The fact that you made that statement proves the statement is wrong. It’s like saying “In my mind, viewing porn makes me a better husband.” Your subjectivity poisons your moral authority. It’s like saying you stayed up to hear yourself snore.)

4) There is no reason to say someone is a drug user if they are using pot a couple of times a week. (Right. That’s assuming the term “drug user” no longer refers to a, you know, person who uses drugs. You’re asking for a special definition to protect your behavior.)

5) My friends and I have researched this and…. (I don’t want to waste the bandwidth with the examples that come to mind with this one…..oh just one. “The Cubs are going to win the World Series. I’ve been reading a lot of Cubs fan sites and…..”)

If you’ve had these conversations, you know how it feels. You are generally debating with someone who is completely blind to their MORAL situation, so they want the discussion to be a LEGAL and RATIONAL ONE. God is at the mercy of a reasoner, doomed to irrelevance so the preferred behavior won’t be taken away.

You noted the silence of scripture. You noted the complete lack of desire to know and do God’s will. And you should have noticed the total absence of Jesus.

Let’s assume that I am involved in an adulterous affair. What are the chances that I could prepare and deliver a talk on the subject: “Why this affair is, in my case, the right thing to do?” Why would I be able to talk for 10 minutes with complete sincerity about the rightness of my affair? Perhaps because I was morally inclined- or totally determined- to fully approve my own actions so that my conscience might be persuaded to shut up while I’m having sex? Or might it be because I am looking to approval from a few others whom I will award the title of truly insightful, thus insuring me of my moral superiority to those narrow and judgmental fundamentalists?

We are moral creatures, but our morality can be motivated a variety of ways. Terrorists believe the killing of innocents is somehow moral. Drug dealers believe it is morally right to deal drugs. Cheating bookkeepers believe there is a rightness to skimming their take off the books. Moral choices are at the mercy of our rebellious, sin-loving minds.

Now the response of many Christians to all of this is to attempt to “out reason” the reasoners. They try to present stronger, better arguments. They seek to demolish the other fellow’s reasons or to undermine the basis of his arguments. One can hear examples of this at most churches, in parenting classes, in Bible studies, in schools, in “values” seminars and so on. Christians are quite convinced that those who do not believe the Gospel are waiting to be bowled over by stunning examples of moral reasoning.

Christians have become great arguers of morality, especially the morality of their position on the great issues of the day. And it’s a fool’s errand.

Here is the problem, and please listen carefully if you are a young person dealing with this issue yourself:

The problem is that our moral life isn’t energized by arguments. Morality grows out of LOVE.

It’s not about reason. It’s about my affections: do I love God and others? Or do I love sin and self?

For a moment, imagine what it is like to teach your kids right and wrong every day for years, only to discover they are violating that morality while away from home. (Marijuana is a good example.) What is the usual response?

-blame yourself
-blame a corrupting influence, like Hollywood or the public schools
-blame the church for not teaching morality
-make it all a psychological issue and get medication
-blame the devil
-blame Christians who didn’t teach their kids as well as you taught yours.
And of course, buy a book and make a better argument the next time they are home.

We could stay here a long time and blow up each one of these responses.

The best response is simple: Your child doesn’t love God more than he/she loves sin. If their heart and their affections do not change, they will not change. Change follows love. Pain can effect behavior, but love shapes character, life, integrity and true actions done for and in God.

We are drawn toward what we love and we love what we believe gives us significance and security. For the Christian, the source of this kind of love is no mystery for the Christian. They mystery is why we refer to the source so rarely.

Love the Lord your God is a command to trust God as the source of significance and security. This settles the majority of moral questions on the spot. But there is more: For the Christian, morality is Jesus shaped. Jesus is perfect morality. His life teaches it. His spirit empowers it. His words embody it. Knowing Jesus and loving Jesus are the substance of morality. Moral choice is about how I live in and for the one who loves me most deeply.

Jesus doesn’t give his disciples any kind of comprehensive list of dos and don’ts. He says, “Come follow me.” Jesus moral arguments ask us if we love God and if we love neighbor and self. Then he shows us how, perfectly.

We belong to Jesus. Morality is simplified again: If I belong to Christ, what do I do? If he has purchased me, what is right for me? If I belong to him, what are the moral choices of one who chooses to be another’s slave?

On the most basic level: Whom do we love? What do we love? Where is our security and significance?

We are not comparing this with that, or loading up arguments to be compared and weighed. We are asking what it means to belong to the God who comes to us in Jesus and makes us his own?

Susanna Wesley saw this clearly in her answer to her son John’s question about what is sin?

“Take this rule: whatever weakens your reason, impairs the tenderness of your conscience, obscures your sense of God, or takes off your relish of spiritual things; in short, whatever increases the strength and authority of your body over your mind, that thing is sin to you, however innocent it may be in itself.”

Morality becomes not just the question of love of God or neighbor, but what will the choice itself DO TO ME? What person will I become? What results from this choice in my capacity to know and love Jesus? To be aware of his love for me?

To the writer of the letter, I would say “What does using any drug in order to get high say to and about Jesus? What does it say about you and do to you as a person who belongs to Jesus?”

When I read the scriptures saying that Jesus is the alpha and the omega, or the author and finisher, I certainly think that the “fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” Jesus is the starting point for the Christian, but Jesus is the goal of everything in our life as well. It is not just “What would Jesus do?” or “How does this conform to the Gospel?” It is also “How will this affect my journey with Jesus? What will this do to me as a person following Jesus? How does this affect my vision of Jesus?”

We do not think about moral issues like lawyers, just as we shouldn’t think of salvation like lawyers, even though there is a legal dimension. Morality is also about relationships with God and family. It is about love, life and integrity. It is about who we are and who we are becoming. It is about where we come out and not just about what we do along the way.

Marijuana used wrongly is a sin. No question about that to anyone who takes scripture as their guiding authority. (The Christian pro-marijuana sites on the internet make it obvious why the phrase “What are you smoking?” continues to be meaningful.) But for the Christian, marijuana use is incompatible with knowing Jesus, loving Jesus and following Jesus. It seeks in a substance security and peace. It denies to Jesus his place and power. It replaces the Holy Spirit with an empty and idolatrous spirit.

It makes Jesus sad and it sells us a replacement for Jesus that has no place in being compared to the joy that is in Jesus. The Devil is an argument maker. Jesus is a lover. A Satan follower is like Peter, “thinking like man thinks.” A Jesus follower is a Jesus lover. Jesus is the bridegroom who pursues us with holy, relentless love. He desires a bride who loves him in the grace of the Gospel.

Let’s make moral arguments when appropriate, but as Christians, our morality is Jesus shaped and there is no way to make any moral decision without Jesus in the very center of every question.

Comments

  1. I think you can define sin as the absence of love

    Sin is often described as breaking God’s Law. According to John MacArthur, by thinking evil, speaking evil, acting evil or omitting good. Lehman Strauss makes a strong argument for it being “missing the mark”. The Apostle Paul in Romans makes it clear that for whatsoever is not of faith is sin” (Romans 14:23)

    Do we make sin too complicated? Do we work too hard to construct a “doctrine of sin”?

    Jesus makes it clear we are to do two things – Love God and Love our Neighbor. Is sin simply doing those things that do not demonstrate a Love for God or a Love for our Neighbor?

  2. ishville:

    Before I can say what something will do, I have to know what it is. Good point.

    Excuse this revisitation of one reason compared to another.

    Marijuana is not like alcohol.

    Scripture commends the moderate, God-glorifying use of alcohol. It does not do so with other drugs. The principle of right use clearly demarcates the two.

    But here’s a better one: Who is the self-confessed, unashamed pot-smoker that the Body of Christ should look to as an example of loving Jesus and rightly using weed?

    peace

    ms

  3. I don’t agree that the Bible teaches against drinking, as stated by one comment. In Acts on the Day of Pentecost when the disciples began to speak in tongues, the people of the town thought they were drunk. Peter, very quickly, replies that it’s 9 (or 10? I don’t recall the exact hour) in the morning…as if to say that would be a reasonable accusation had it been 9 or 10 at night.
    I believe adults can and should decide for themselves what it is that separates them from communion with God. When I compare alcohol and pot, one grows from the earth that God created, and the other does not.

  4. Wow, iMonk… “For the record, in regard to public policy, I’m for decriminalization for personal use.” That’s where I sit too, for what it is worth.

    I haven’t managed to read all the above great comments, but there are a lot of people suffering from AIDS, glaucoma, MS, chemotherapy, etc. etc. etc. who should not have to break the law to alleviate their symptoms.

    I think it is a Jesus-shaped use when we allow suffering people to use whatever they need to help alleviate their symptoms.

    And I actually brought this up the other day at a staff luncheon. On the radio driving over, I learned that it was “420 day” and what it entailed (it’s basically a holiday for pot smokers).

    I was amused and shared my newfound knowledge with the senior pastor and some of our other staff, along with my take that we shouldn’t be putting sick people in prison for trying to feel better.

    They were pretty much in agreement. No one freaked out, except my wife, who couldn’t believe I brought it up.

  5. A cancer patient?

  6. Now THAT cleared it up for me. Excellent point.

  7. morality is a result of the fall.

  8. Fine, throw the alcohol argument out. I drink (delicious) coffee every morning – a body and mind drug we are almost all familiar with. The bible says nothing of it and does not commend it for moderate use. Therefore I should not use it?

  9. Colin: See the Susanna Wesley quote. I’m not trying to be a smart-aleck about it. It applies.

  10. “Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God because God is love…Whoever lives in love lives in God and God in him…we love because he first loved us.” (from 1 John 4:7-19 NIV). John states this in the context of loving one another as God has loved us in sending Jesus as God in the flesh to die for our salvation. Having said this…

    There is no other motivation acceptable to God for anything we do other than love. If we are to believe Jesus, whom John echoes, whatever does not flow from loving God with all my heart and my neighbor as myself comes from a deceitful heart and is sin.

    Can smoking pot really flow from a heart full of love for God and neighbor? I am not the judge, God is; but I frankly doubt it having had extensive experience dealing with the extremely negative damages of pot use – including having worked directly with more than one semi-legal California mj clinic on a research basis.

    The naivete displayed in some of the above comments regarding pot use is sad, and mostly the result of propaganda coming from a very strong pro-pot lobby. For example, the supposed equivalence of moderate alcohol consumption with moderate pot use: your body is designed to metabolize alcohol but not pot, anymore than it will metabolize nicotine; “moderate” pot use is like talking about “moderate” wife abuse: it may not do the hurt of “heavy” abuse but hurt it does. You might have a glass of wine today and not know it tomorrow; you do moderate pot today and your body might be bearing the residue next month. The supposed medical benefits of pot are at this moment unproven; the harm very well settled.

    So, forgive the rant. The question is what does love have to do with it? Love does no harm to my neighbor; love honors God’s creation, recognizing that a fallen creation brings forth poison as readily as health food. Even in Brownies, pot is no health food. There are bigger, more important things to worry about, I agree. But to equate love for God or my neighbor with smoking pot is as far off the charts as one can get. I have yet to meet an MD issuing pot scripts who does so for the health of the patient; if they exist please put me in touch for an interview. In fact, there are far better meds for conditions pot supposedly helps; and love requires me to advise a pot smoking friend just that.

    And I do. I have pagan friends who do pot; they know that I know it; we discuss it openly and non-judgementally; but they also know that I love them for whjo they are in spite of pot, and make my stand on pot clear just because of that love.

    As Imonk, says, “Peace!”

  11. iMonk, fair enough. I didn’t read any smart-aleckiness into anything you have said, and the quote addresses clearly what I wrote.

    Paul, I think your rhetoric is too strong. There is no such thing as moderate abuse of any sort. Abuse is abuse – if you want to make the case that every use of cannabis is abuse, then be my guest. But comparing cannabis use to wife abuse is a pretty major stretch.

  12. Colin:

    I do understand. I have a conscience issue involving Christian adults who drink multiple energy drinks. This fails the Susanna Wesley test for me, and I can see some real questions (not unlike those raised by alcohol) that would be raised by younger believers regarding the use of a legal “buzz.”

    peace

    ms

  13. Paul/ZwCephas, so it’s not possible to get “somewhat high”?

    I don’t smoke pot, but that’s definitely news to me.

  14. Fair enough – occasionally when I drink coffee I definitely wind up feeling too nervous to function well. Now that I have my Aeropress and make espresso I haven’t had that problem once! Usually a cup of coffee increases my productivity and helps my mood in the morning, so I love to go for it. Mmmmmmm, coffee.

    I’m just waiting for the chorus of cannabis users to claim (against your obvious intent) that smoking increases the power of their minds over their bodies, thus passing the proposed Wesley test. 🙂

    (I don’t mean to keep coming back for more, but this has been kind of a fun discourse. I hope I am not being a pest!)

  15. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    How did this thread get hijacked by Weed? It’s sounding more like Feds and Heads or Reefer Madness. (And most of the Christian Culture War/Moral Crusader types I’ve encountered come down squarely on the side of Reefer Madness.)

  16. Speaking of Reefer Madness, the musical isn’t bad, believe it or not.

  17. we can not put borders to sin. It is like poison, it doesnt matter the quantity. we all are addict to sin, because we are all sinners. For me, there is not difference between a murder and a drug addict, so i have realized that is not important to try to put it in levels. Sin is sin. We are hostages of it. Jesus is the one that have the key to make us free. what i am trying to say is that for me(it is just my opinion) the important thing to consider is the sinner no the sin. In that case the use of marijuana in a cancer situation, only in that case, can no be a sin. It is just another drug as many to fight tha pain in a cancer situation. you are not an addict. An addict is a sinner, it doesnt matter if is a drug addict, or a internet addict. We have to depende only in our faith

    (sorry tha mistakes in the writing, i am from Bolivia so…..)

  18. Mack Ramer says

    iMonk, I agree with you completely when you say “Marijuana used wrongly is a sin.” Yes! But pot use is not pot addiction. If you’re going to tell me that the Susanna Wesley quote applies to moderate pot smoking, you’re going to have to tell me it applies to moderate beer drinking, or moderate chocolate cake eating too for that matter. All these are ways of gratifying our ego, the opposite of mortification of the flesh, aren’t they? But at such an extreme level, following a teaching like that is going to create an utterly joyless existence where our distrust of material pleasures is such that we would literally rather die than live one more day. Jesus asks us to carry our Cross, surely, but are we to deny ourselves all material pleasures?

    Before I say anything else, let’s dispel any notions that I’m defending something I’m attached to or have any emotional need to rationalize. I’ve only smoked pot once in my life. I was 19, and I did not enjoy it. However, I have many friends and family members who smoke pot moderately, regularly, and recreationally. These people are full of life, they are responsible members of their communities and in a worldly sense very successful: one is an executive at a major national bank, another an executive at a pharmaceutical company, another is an owner of a very successful local newspaper, another has been an RN at a hospital for almost 30 years. These are not losers we’re talking about, here. They’re people full of flaws, who sometimes do things that make me mad, but for them, marijuana smoking is not one of those flaws!

    iMonk, I cannot stress this enough: Marijuana is not more addictive than alcohol. There exists a level of moderate use (and a possible, and very dangerous, state of addiction!) of marijuana just as there is for consumption of beer or chocolate cake. Scientific studies have shown that marijuana is both less harmful and less addictive than alcohol: see this article from the medical journal Lancet from 2007 [PDF]. The only reason people have a negative opinion of marijuana is because of a cultural bias stemming from a historical campaign of misinformation and a category error (i.e. belief that cannabis sativa, unlike beer, is in the category “drugs” and “drugs” are bad).

    As to your question: Who is the self-confessed, unashamed pot-smoker that the Body of Christ should look to as an example of loving Jesus and rightly using weed? I would mention some family members of mine, but they don’t pass the “self-confessed” test; like many, they value their jobs too much to be martyrs to this cause.

  19. Debra – “as if to say that would be a reasonable accusation had it been 9 or 10 at night.”

    Even a “reasonable” accusation is still an Accusation! It is clearly a sin to be drunk. How could this be construed as a reason to drink?

    “When I compare alcohol and pot, one grows from the earth that God created, and the other does not.”

    So where does the other one come from in your world?

  20. Mack:

    I was very reluctant to post your entire comment, as it presents a view I consider harmful to the students I work with who struggle with this issue. Nonetheless, I have let it stand.

    First, the Susanna Wesley quote applies to anything, whether it is moral or immoral, legal or illegal, addictive or not.

    Secondly, Christians don’t reason from the position of “What is more addicting?”

    If you want to set a national drug policy, have at it. I’m asking what kind of Jesus someone has who smokes weed to get what Jesus freely gives.

    Thirdly, when you have watched weed do what I’ve watched it do in the lives and families I’ve worked with for 30 + years and esp the last 15, then you can lecture me on medical studies. Medical studies cannot explain what happens in families, marriages and relationships as a result of turning to a drug rather than to Christ.

    I have heard hundreds of students tell me of growing up around parents and family members who use pot and who introduced them to it, even smoking with them, from a young age. A real wonderful group of parents. The results of their enlightened parenting are obvious.

    God will judge, not me. I am offering my view that Jesus is the one measurement that matters in this choice. He’ll also judge integrity, motive and honest, all of which are matters of the heart, not addiction.

    I cannot believe you cite a study and expect someone who works with at risk kids to buy that conclusion.

    Argue this with someone else. I’m going to tell my world to choose Jesus instead of drugs. If that makes me a fool, so be it. My conscience is clear.

    I’m glad those smoking weed inspire you to follow Christ, particularly the Christ Paul said was of infinitely more satisfying value than anything the world had to offer and worth suffering the loss of all things to know.

    ms

  21. Mack Ramer says

    iMonk, thank you for letting my whole post past moderation. I’m sensitive to your concerns about your kids; I’ve seen drugs screw up some lives, myself, just like alcohol, and indeed, food (–edit.)

    So I’m still wondering, do you believe that moderate beer consumption, or say eating fatty sugary foods, passes the “Wesley test”, if I may coin a phrase, and that marijuana fails it? If so, why?

  22. >…that thing is sin to you, however innocent it may be in itself.”

    Mack:

    What I believe isn’t really the topic is it? I’m not God. I have many friends for whom moderate beer consumption fails the Wesley test. it is SIN FOR THEM because of what it does.

    I think the Wesley test is clearly not some fundamentalist rant against beer or sugary foods. It’s a way to ask What is this doing to ME as a Christian? That’s a great question. In fact, it’s a lot better question than “Is there a nurse or a pharmacist somewhere using drugs and still having a GREAT LIFE.”

    As a Christian, I believe happy people using drugs to make themselves even happier is a sad rejection of the sufficiency of Jesus who promises us so much.

    I live in the Pot capital of the US. Maxim Magazine did a cover story on Clay County pot. I see the results of pot use every day at the post office, in local government, in the PSchools, etc. I’d love anyone who wants to debate the “harm” possible via this lifestyle to visit our little piece of paradise. The Feds are currently spending millions arresting all those who are involved in government and law enforcement corruption so your friends and family members can have a product to enjoy. One of my friends helps run a court ordered NA group. A local drug treatment center is coming to campus with their youngest patients to do a program next week. The reign of pot as king of Clay County has reduced us to a third world country and been the entrance to the Meth culture that is killing thousands of Appalachians every year. Many of the women who work in our kitchen are involved with men who raise pot for income. It’s a nightmare of violence and abuse.

    But none of this is what persuades me. I’m only persuaded that, as a Christian, pot doesn’t make Jesus look great. It doesn’t increase my satisfaction in him. It doesn’t glorify him. I think it makes him sad when I replace him with anything. I can’t see that with some of the things you’ve mentioned, but I can with pot.

    As I said, that’s just me. I’m not God.

    ms

  23. A bit late to the game again…

    Michael, you wrote:

    “If I am engaged in moral reasoning over Jesus-worshipping/loving/following, then I admit it: Call this article FAIL.”

    After my initial comments at the beginning of this thread I reread the article. It compares favorably to what I teach my sixth, seventh and eighth graders when I teach them Catholic vision of Love ( a morality course). You are very clear – what I think though is that many lose sight. God gave us a body and if we listen to him, use Jesus as the great moral teacher, the model for what we should be, we will know not to defile our body, our temple. If we can be strong with ourselves, with our image, then we can love ourselves and in turn love others as Jesus taught us.

    From my own perspective, which has been influenced by Catholic mystical writing, for us to grow in greater union with God, we should go through purification or purgation which is a denial of sensual appetites as a first step. Understanding this is an ideal we should strive anyway and my personal opinion is that putting things between myself and relationships can only be bad, or at least cause me to lose focus.

  24. One more thing as I read through these commments – and this is addressed more to those who believe they have been reborn in Christ. From a secularist point of view I understand the position some take here on pot not being such a bad thing, from a spiritual view I can’t reconcile it given all that Paul had to say about it in his letters.

    Say what you will – I did not just dabble with it early in life – in the group I hung with we were either doing it or looking for it. I had a chance to see a number of these folks again at a funeral recently for a person I once knew – he gave up on life and ended it. Interesting to note how long time exposure tends to make a person one off with reality (we’re all in our mid to late forties now). Not much emotion, just kind of BLAH – like ‘yeah man, what a drag this happened – let’s go burn one in the parking lot’. It was like a time warp and not a lifestyle I’d ever care to revisit again.

  25. Jacob Harding says

    Denying ourselves of what we want for the purpose of growing closer to god is one thing, but to condemn them is to go against gods design. If every commenter here were to list 100 diferent things that are enjoyable and not sin in and of themselves it would be just an introduction to volumes. Why is marijuana getting thrown under the bus? Jesus IS our source of joy. He is also our source of life, should I stop doing what keeps my body alive? The earth was created for man to subdue and we ought to take pleasure in what god has given us if we so choose. When we use the good gifts god has given outside of his design, this is when it becomes sin (consider His design for sex and what man has made it into). An abuse or dependence on a drug to the point where it is all that matters is obviously idolotry. It is a concern only for personal gratification. Do you think the first time man smoked weed god said “Aaarrrggg….that marijuna plant I gave him to make ropes. I didn’t realize I put THC and other cannibinoids in it. And that brain I put in him, it has receptors that take hold of those elements!”. That is ridiculous, I know, but it is the truth of the situation if we were not meant to use it in this way to some extent.
    I don’t smoke it for a few reasons but I refuse to step up and put words in the mouth of god.

  26. Colin: point well taken; my error, bad analogy;
    Patrick: The “high” is not the issue; if it were there most likely would be no issue; as I read scripture, God is not against relaxation or even a “high,” in moderation; What a substance does to the body and the attitude that accompanies it, especially in young people, is the issue.

    Jesus reminded us that “whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body.” This pretty well covers alcohol – the body metabolizes it; not so pot; the body does not handle it well at all; so, my rag on pot stems from:
    1. It is a foreign substance that does not belong in the body;
    2. It is probably the primary attitude buster we come across in dealing with kids-at-risk; it is the ultimate downer; the high is an illusion; even moderate use of pot by kids goes hand in hand with loss of interest in life; the two just go together where my work intersects with life at a street at level;
    So excuse my extreme dislike of the stuff; I deal with the kids it destroys.

  27. If I may take the discussion in a direction I think Michael may have intended: when does (for us protestantish/ fundagelicals, anyway) the church we meet with, or the pastor we follow, or the books and music we read and listen too take the place of Jesus in our lives? When is the Bible and truth more important to us than Jesus? Those things all shape our moralities–just read or listen to anything by Piper or MacArthur, or any number of authors. Morality is the point and the goal. But does it have Jesus at it’s center?

    I had a supervisor at work who always said, “Where you sit is how you stand.” IOW, your convictions varied depending on what was important to you at the time. Somewhat a cynical view, but, like Michael said, if we are invested in something (be it dope, work, or a mega-church) we will defend it and justify it.

    Jesus is the trump… and that is all Michael is saying… and that is why everyone is so fired up.

  28. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    I live in the Pot capital of the US. — IMonk

    Even more so than “The Emerald Triangle” of Northern California? I’ve heard stories out of Humboldt and Shasta Counties about CA’s largest cash crop — including “pot mercs” who shoot up the pot fields around harvest time and heist the profits, like a crossover between Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers and Soldier of Fortune.

    P.S. I’ve known at least one guy (a cartoonist in Atlanta) who turned himself into a THC-based life form. (Surprisingly, he was the only one of many self-destructive artist types I’ve known who took that particular route of self-destruction.) I’ve also encountered two or three alcohol-based life forms in my life. I consider the two to be roughly equivalent; the first was basically the pot version of serious alcoholism.

    In his Science Fiction Writer’s Handbook, Sprague DeCamp specifically says “DO NOT TRY POT”. His reason being, its main effect is to make you lazy and a starting-out writer has enough motivation problems without adding stoner inertia to the mix.

  29. Maybe comments are closed now, but I think a lot of people miss the point. Anything we do that isn’t motivated by a proper love of God and of our neighbor is immoral. And without Christ’s redemptive work, we would be unable to love God and our neighbor in a proper way.

    Am I close, imonk?

  30. I think you are being a bit tricky here. You are not writing about Marijuana use at all – you are writing about *anything* that we idolize above Jesus. This is more a meditation on morality, and how Christians should think about morality, rather than a meditation on pot – marijuana use is only an example. Christianity is not a list of do or do nots. It is a life that is centered around loving God and loving others – the love of Jesus is enough.

  31. (Michael, you are welcome to delete this as it is getting away from the original intention of your post, but I wanted folks to know that even though I think use of pot is very unhealthy and dangerous, I don’t want people who use it once in a while to go to risk going to jail.)

    I do not want it to be a criminal offense, either, for a person to possess a small amount of pot. In Maine, it is a civil violation to possess a small amount of it. But you cannot be growing any plants or you will be charged with a criminal offense, unless you have a doctor’s written note that you need to use pot for certain medical conditions, but the patient can still only have a small amount of it.

  32. Kenny Johnson says

    Deb D,

    I think people understood the point, but were having trouble with what they saw as the logical conclusions of actually following that line the end. That we could end up denying ourselves every earthly pleasure because we fail to reason how it fits with loving Jesus.

    That’s my struggle. So now, does my TV watching, video game playing, etc. interfere with loving God? I could be praying or reading the word instead.

    That may sound silly, but there are very legalistic churches that preach that. I had a friend that was involved with the Intl Church of Christ (and left) and told stories about how she was told not to paint her art anymore because it took away from her time with God.

    So where is the balance?

  33. To anyone

    1. Dump the legalistic/cultic church that tells you how to be spiritual.

    2. Go to a church that tells you that Jesus is your salvation and your works do nothing to add to that or detract from it.

    3. Get in some dialog and measure your over scrupulous, possible OCD conscience against those of other mature, normal, Gospel loving Christians.

    4. Read the Wesley quote and realize it’s UP TO YOU to determine this, not for some blog or church to tell you.

    5. Don’t be one of the sheeply who believes that someone has to tell us a pile of rules on how to dress and how to act. That’s not the Gospel.

    6. Go overboard with the Gospel. Read the Luther quote on sinning to spite the devil for balance. If you err, err on the side of Gospel and grace. Don’t give works righteousness or self-justification a foothold.

  34. Amen!

  35. iMonk, you rock. Your last comment is why I love to read your blog in spite of (or to spite) whatever differences we might have politically (many) or theologically (fewer).

  36. Jonathan Hunnicutt says

    Imonk, I didn’t understand the purpose of your post until you talked the context that you live in. And then it clicked.

    I don’t smoke, and I barely drink, but I don’t really see a big problem with moderate use. However, if you are surrounded by a whole culture has become infected by mj as an idolatry, I can see the reason for your passion.

    I read a story once about some fundie missionaries who went to Mexico preaching temperance and salvation. All the poor were alcoholics and the rich plantation owners were using alcohol to keep them down. The plantation owners would pay them nothing and sell them alcohol at huge mark-ups. Anyway, so the fundie missionaries come in, start helping people get off alcohol. They start using their money to send their kids to school and eventually the whole socio-economic situation turned around, all because the fundie missionaries got the poor of alcohol. Alcohol was the glue that kept the whole unjust system working.

    Imonk, it sounds like your situation is similar.

    Anyway, I do have to point out a frustration of mine, why do we always get mad at the kids for turning to drugs to escape the pain of their lives instead of dealing with their pain?

    I mean seriously, I know kid who uses a bunch of drugs, but part of the reason is that he comes from a terrible family. His mom told him at one point that he should go and commit suicide.

    My question is, why do we in the church always talk about the drugs and the sex that kids use to the escape the pain, but never the pain itself?

  37. I think the piece is well written, Michael.

    All the arguments in the world (no matter how truthful and well articulated) are ultimately useless when confronting the person who has found an idol that they’re determined to keep around no matter what. We’re geniuses when it comes to finding reputable sources to bolster our side of an argument (especially with the Internet at our fingertips). Plus, we live in a culture that loves a short-cut. Words like cheapest, lowest, fastest, and shortest are some of the most powerful words in the consumerist liturgy we follow, prayers we pray, and praises we sing. And that way of thinking tends to infect every area of our lives.

    It bothers me that so many of the the pro pot Christians seem to spend a lot more time and energy researching and formulating arguments to defend their use of pot than they do looking into what it means to truly be a disciple of Jesus.

    Whatever the supposed benefits of marijuana, they are usually things that can be obtained through other means. Unfortunately, those other means require more time and effort than most are willing to invest. It’s much easier to just smoke a joint. But the sad thing is, it often ends up making it harder to pursue those other means later.

    There are no short-cuts to discipleship (or enlightenment, or creativity, or peace of mind), which is probably why we’ll keep seeing the slide away from the Christianity of “deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow me”, and toward the spiritual marijuana of Joel Osteen.

    So I think your point, about the importance of knowing where your heart lies spiritually, is very well put. If Christ is the object of our deepest longings and affections, then we’ll (hopefully) be hesitant to allow anything to cloud those affections.

    Flannery O’Connor said, of a couple of friends who tended to drink to excess, that she believed they did so because they didn’t realize how near God is.

    Your piece has also opened my eyes to things in my own life that I have allowed to distract me from my first love, and for that I am very greatful. (Conviction is never pleasant, but it should always be welcome.)

  38. I can’t believe a commenter actually claimed that chocolate ice cream “alters your state of mind.” Smoke much?

    And the mention of caffeine as somehow analogous to pot is kind of silly. No amount of caffeine is going to make you think you somehow perceive the world more clearly, or will write better, paint better, or be a better person. (And if one is so caffeine dependent that they can’t function without it, then they’ve got a problem.)

    And the comparison to alcohol always makes me laugh. Most people drink because they like the taste. Nobody smokes pot because they like the taste. People smoke pot to get high.

  39. I get blue in the face wondering when Christians will stop debating the morality/ethicality of things that are not worth the extracurricular activity of demonizing. The same christian who shuns alcohol and marijuana or cigarettes or other drugs may have a problem elsewhere. Like lust, or prejudice of someone from a different denomination, or another race, or downright hypocrisy and self-righteousness, or self centerdness, and arrogance. I am a recovering addict. Iknow that because of the power of God, today I am clean and sober. However, I am not going to point fingers all day at drug users. I still remember the despair and heart ache I was under before I was delivered. You have no idea. Believe me, you don’t. Stop posing moral questions. Instead, pray for those still suffering. You’re not fooling me with your overblown sense of morality. Get real Brothers and Sisters. We all need God’s mercy. We are all lost without it. Whether you’ve done drugs or not.