Jesus and Smoking Pot
"So what do you think about smoking pot?" That's the question the young woman asked me, Joe Pastor, as she leaned across the table in the deli where we were eating lunch.
That's a good question. After all, Scripture doesn't exactly say a whole lot about the demon weed (other than in Gen 15, where it's God doing both the smoking and the pot - bet you didn't know that was in there, did you?).
So how would you answer a question like this? What's the gospel response?
Too many times we would-be followers of Christ say little more than "Bad dog! No biscuit!" as we wag our finger disapprovingly in the asker's direction. But is there a better answer? Can we say something more? What would Jesus say if he was the one answering? Be careful not to assume this question is a gimmee.
With cases like this, I think its often helpful to consider what's NOT being asked - or rather, to ponder the question behind the question, the real premise that often lies unexpressed. You see, someone who asks this might actually be asking a several different things, for several different reasons.
For instance, he might be saying "Does God even care what I do with my body? Does this 'faith' thing have any connection with the way I live my 'real life'? Or are the two so disconnected that I can do whatever I want in the here and now as long as I 'believe in God' as being important for the hereafter?"
In a case like this, I'd want to say, "Hey, God DOES care what we do with our bodies." Jesus doesn't just come demanding intellectual allegiance - he actually has the gall to claim authority over every inch of creation, over every breath we take. Jesus demands we acknowledge him as Lord ("the big Kahuna") in everything we do. This is why he can say that ANYTHING that does not flow from faith-in-him is nothing less than rebellion, sin, wrong.
My wanting to smoke pot is nothing less than high treason if I'm pursuing it for my own sake, my own indulgence, as my own little corner of the universe where I get to do what I want.
And my NOT smoking pot can be exactly the same thing - just as self-serving, just as treacherous, just as wicked in God's sight.
You see, someone might actually be asking a very different question altogether: "Does God love me more because I DON'T smoke pot?" Far too often, Christians use a "sin" like smoking pot (or whatever your favorite vice might be) as both a hammer and a ladder.
As a hammer, we point to people doing bad things and just nail them right between the eyes with it - we withhold our approval (or dish it out) based on whether or not the person conforms with our standard of morality. But Jesus doesn't deal with people this way - he tells them to trust in his goodness, not their own.
As a ladder, we use this same standard to prop ourselves up, to give ourselves pats on the back because we're good people, we're not like all those "sinners" ("Thank you God that I'm not like all those other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector here. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get. Don't you love me because I'm so good and holy and obedient?"). Jesus reserves his harshest criticism for people who think like this - whitewashed tombs! hypocrites!
So in a case like this, our answer should be emphatic - absolutely NOT! If you think God loves you more because you are NOT smoking pot, or less because you ARE, then you don't really understand the gospel. You do not know what grace is yet.
You see, God does not wait for us to clean ourselves up. He doesn't give us an ethical standard of behavior, a set of rules, a list of dos-and-don'ts, and then lavish his affection on those who measure up, and frown disapprovingly on those who don't.
Nope, his criteria is much simpler than that: Are you family? Are you royalty? Are you a son or daughter of the King? Blood really is thicker than anything else. Especially when it belongs to Christ, poured out for us.
In light of this, there is a very real sense where it doesn't matter one whit whether or not you are smoking pot. The only thing that matters is this: Do you have Christ as your big brother? Are you clinging to him for all your rightness and approval from God? Because he alone is the entry point to God's favor, and he's not just the door - he's the whole house and estate as well.
Jesus Christ IS the promised land. He is the bread of life. He is living water. He is everything we are looking for in everything else (including pot). He's not just for the sweet-bye-and-bye. He delivers life in the here and now.
If I have Christ, God cannot love me more than he already does. Even if I smoke pot. But everything that pot is, all the good that it gives, that's just a pale reflection, a dim echo, pointing to something bigger and better and stronger. Something that is only found in Christ.
So does God care if we smoke pot? Absolutely. And absolutely not.
Both of those statements are equally true. And the answer that is most appropriate depends entirely on the question behind the question, on where the person asking it is really coming from. It depends on her context, her motive, her heart.
And to figure that out, we're going to have to have a relationship with her first - I'm going to have to learn to listen, to ask good questions, to discern what she's really asking. I'm going to have to learn to love her, not because she conforms to my particular moral standard, not because she props up my particular code of conduct, but simply because she is created in the image of God, and he loves her, even while she is still his enemy, even before she's got it all together, even while she is still a work in progress.
Just. Like. Me.
I need to constantly remember that God loves sinners (of whom I am STILL chief) so much that he was willing to die for me. And for her. And for him.
I wonder how many of us are really willing to love those who are different from us, even if they never change or become like us.
And I wonder how many of us are really willing to love ourselves, not because of anything we do, or haven't done, but simply because God himself loves us already, solely on account of what Christ has done for us, solely because we put all our hope and confidence in his work rather than our own, solely because we have put on Christ - he is ours, and we are his, and nothing (not even pot) can separate us from the love of God.
Maybe we all need to put THAT in our pipe and smoke it...