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Cannabis and the Christian

06.27.18 | Culture | by Matt Shantz

    When I was a teenager I had a t-shirt that said: 'Wanna get high? Take a hit of this!' and it had a picture of the Bible on it. It's embarrassing now but a little self-deprecation never hurt anybody so I share that little tidbit with you.

    Like that t-shirt, there is a sense in which this post will be received that paints Christians in a...how shall we say it...lame light. Like we're just squares, prudes, and killjoys. And I get that. Christianity that is simply against all the things that the world thinks are fun is not attractive and compelling. But to draw that conclusion is to miss the point. Christianity is for something. Something so grand, so compelling, that if it was a treasure found in a field it would be worth it to sell off everything else to buy that field in order to possess the treasure of treasures.

    That treasure is the gospel, by the way. The greatest exchange imaginable. Jesus traded His righteousness for our unrighteousness and then paid the penalty for our sin on the cross. He got killed so we could get life. Abundant life. Eternal life. And He did it because He loves us.

    Any talk of changing our lifestyles only makes sense in light of a genuine life-transforming encounter with the living God. 

    Let's talk about weed

    When the Bible doesn't speak directly to a specific issue people like to plead ignorance. "Well, the Bible doesn't say anything about pot so it's ok." Two things in response to that: 1. where the Bible doesn't speak specifically, it speaks broadly and in a way that gives us the tools to discern specifically. 2. the Bible does speak directly about being impaired by mind-altering substances. 

    "Any talk of changing our lifestyles only makes sense in light of a genuine life-transforming encounter with the living God." 

    So let's talk about weed. Legislation has been passed in Canada that sets the table for the legalization of marijuana. So now that it's legal the natural question is, can Christians smoke weed? Or put another way, is it wrong for Christians to smoke weed?

    To answer that question we need to break it into two categories: medicinally and recreationally. Let's start with the latter:

    Recreational use

    While alcohol and marijuana are different substances with different effects (one gets you drunk, the other gets you stoned), the Bible speaks directly about alcohol and the categories are similar.

    Because it usually takes multiple drinks to get drunk (differs depending on the individual and the alcohol), there is some Christian freedom in regards to alcohol. While some individuals choose to enjoy a drink or two, others stay clear of alcohol all together either because of a proclivity towards abusing it, alcoholism in their history or family history, or simply because they don’t want to mess with something that could go sideways for them or others.

    But whatever the varied practice is regarding alcohol, all can agree that the Scriptures are clear that we should not get drunk (Luke 21:34; Romans 13:13; Galatians 5:21; Ephesians 5:18; et al)

    In 1 Peter 4, the Apostle writes, For the time that is past suffices for doing what [unbelivers] want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry... The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers (4, 7).

    "whatever the varied practice is regarding alcohol, all can agree that the Scriptures are clear that we should not get drunk"

    I think pot falls in the category of drunkenness but with instant effects, as opposed to a drink or two being permissible. You know what I mean? In many cases, one toke can have a significant effect and, therefore, to smoke weed at all alters the sober-mindedness that we are called to.

    Replace wine with weed in Proverbs 23:29-35 and I think it captures it accurately:

    "Who has redness of eyes? Those who tarry long over wine; those who go to try mixed wine. Do not look at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup and goes down smoothly. In the end it bites like a serpent and stings like an adder. Your eyes will see strange things, and your heart utter perverse things. You will be like one who lies down in the midst of the sea, like one who lies on the top of a mast. “They struck me,” you will say, “but I was not hurt; they beat me, but I did not feel it. When shall I awake? I must have another drink.” 

    It's quite possible that someone tried to lie on top of a mast after smoking weed. Hopefully, they didn't try to lie down in the midst of the sea cause that wouldn't have gone well.

    Medicinal use

    In my mind, medicinal marijuana is a separate issue. I’m sure there are differing views on this. Mine is that for the dying cancer patient or the individual with a brain injury and other similar circumstances, a mild dose of marijuana provides relief in some of these cases, as other prescription drugs do. In this regard, it performs a medicinal function. And because it's a plant, because it's natural, there are circumstances when it is a better option than some harsher chemicals that get pumped into patient's bodies that we don't think twice about.

    When my son Walker broke his leg they sedated him and told us that he would be pretty loopy when he woke up... which was 100% the case. It had an inebriating or stoning effect on him for a little while. In the context of medical treatment, there are a number of drugs that have mind-altering effects.

    I'm a pastor. Not a doctor. My first two initials are MD but that's as close as I get. My point here is to differentiate between recreational and medicinal purposes. And I think that differentiation can be made. I don't think a hard and fast law opposing marijuana in the church is nuanced enough. It also goes without saying that, like many prescription drugs, it can be abused.

    "A differentiation should be made between recreational and medicinal uses."

    The lion's share of those reading this will be thinking along the lines of recreational use and that's what I'm primarily speaking to in this article.

    Sober-minded Christ-exalters

    Throughout the New Testament Christians are exhorted to be sober-minded. Because God is the fun police? No. So we are ready and watchful and living as witnesses for Christ in the world. 

    The Apostle Paul wrote, do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18). That'd make a great t-shirt slogan... Nevermind. The Christian life involves forsaking one lifestyle to embrace another. It's a call to awakening not numbing. To enlivened senses not altered senses. To vibrancy, not escapism. The reality of Jesus, not reality-distorting substances. 

    The pothead sits on a couch, zoned out, eating a bag of Doritos to satisfy the munchies. And while that's an exaggeration of reality in many instances, that picture doesn't align with our citizenship and participation in the Kingdom God is ushering in. It aligns with tapping out and distorting and numbing reality.

    "The Christian life involves forsaking one lifestyle to embrace another. It's a call to awakening not numbing. To enlivened senses not altered senses. To vibrancy, not escapism. The reality of Jesus, not reality-distorting substances."

    So while alcohol is legal and pot is days away from being legal, our higher allegiance is to Christ, to be Christians (little Christs), living fully alive to His reality and for His glory, who witness to Him with our lives, and find Him to be our all-satisfying treasure. Eternity, after all, will be the euphoria that we never come down from. Maybe taking a hit of the Bible isn't such a bad way of putting it. May I recommend that the next time 420 rolls around you give Revelation 21-22 a read and meditate on it.