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Jesus and Pot Article

"So what do you think about smoking pot?"

Now that's a loaded question! After all, the Bible doesn't exactly say a whole lot about weed (other than in Genesis 15, where God’s doing the smoking and handling the pot). 

So how would you answer this? And what's a Christian response?

Those of us who attempt to follow Christ often default to condemnation. In doing so, we fail to authentically interact with the question. Rather than playing the WWJD (“What Would Jesus Do”) card, why not ask: What would Jesus say if he was answering the question?

Let’s try to toss out our assumptions and start by considering what's really being asked and what’s not being asked. Put another way, look at the question behind the question.

The underlying question(s) might be, "Does God care what I do with my body? Does 'faith' have any connection to how I live my ‘real’ life? Are the two so disconnected that I can do whatever I want in the present, as long as I 'believe in God' for the hereafter?"

For starters, we’d say, "God actually does care what we do with our bodies." Jesus doesn't come and simply demand intellectual allegiance; he radically claims authority over every part of creation, over every breath we take. Jesus demands to be acknowledged as Lord in everything we do. So, he can say that anything that doesn’t flow from faith-in-him is rebellious, sinful or wrong.

Smoking pot is nothing less than flipping Jesus off - if I'm pursuing it for my own sake, for my own indulgence and as my own little corner of the universe where I get to do what I want -- to be my own lord.

And, my not smoking pot can be exactly the same thing; just as self-serving, just as rebellious, and just as wicked in God's sight.

Do you need to reread that? Here it is again: choosing not to smoke pot could be a sin. (It's probably been a while since you heard any pastor say that in church).

The fact is, someone might be asking a completely different question: "Does God love me more if I don’t smoke pot?"

In other words, "If my lack of faith (or my ‘badness’) results in wrath, shouldn't my faith (or my ‘goodness’) earn me favor?" The answer is no!

Unfortunately, Christians often use "sins" like smoking pot (or any other vice) as both a hammer and a ladder. 

We point to people doing "bad things" and hammer them right between the eyes. We withhold our approval based on whether or not people conform to 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 the same standard to prop ourselves up and pat ourselves on the back. We're "good people" who do "good things" and we're not like those "sinners" ("Thank God that I'm not like all those others - extortionists, the 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 like this. He calls them “whitewashed tombs” and “hypocrites!”

We can do all the right things for all the wrong reasons. We do what’s "good" not because it's good, but because we want to use that "goodness" to make ourselves look better than others. No wonder Jesus got pissed.

So, the question “Does God love me more if I don’t smoke pot,” has an emphatic answer.

“Absolutely not!”

If you think God loves you more if you’re not smoking pot, or less if you are, then you don't understand the message of Christ. You don’t know what grace is yet. God doesn’t wait for us to clean ourselves up. He doesn't give us a set of rules - a list of dos-and-don'ts - and lavish affection on those who measure up while frowning disapprovingly on those who don't.

His criteria is simpler.

Are you family? Are you royalty? Are you a son or daughter of the King? Blood truly is thicker than water - or anything else. Especially when it belongs to Jesus, poured out for us. He meets us exactly where we are, no matter where we are (although he never leaves us there).

In this context, it might not matter - at all - whether you’re smoking pot. The only thing that matters is this: Is Christ your big brother? Are you clinging to him for all your rightness and approval from God? Because Jesus is the only 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’s the bread of life, the living water. He’s everything we’re looking for in everything else (including pot). He's not just for the hereafter. He offers life - here and now.

If I have Christ, God simply can’t love me more than he already does. Even if I don’t 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 statements are true. The most appropriate answer depends on the question behind the question. What’s the context, the motive and the condition of the heart?

To figure that out, I need to have a relationship with whoever’s asking. I'm going to have to learn to listen, ask good questions and discern what’s really being asked. I'm going to have to learn to love people, not because they agree with me, not because they prop up my specific code of conduct, but simply because they’re created in God’s image. He loves us, even while we’re still his enemies, even before we’ve got it all together, even while we’re still works in progress.

Even at our best, we’re still messy - always in process, never fully arrived. We need to constantly remember that God loves sinners just like me, so much that he was willing to die for me. And for you. 

At the end of the day, here’s the more important question: “Will I acknowledge my own inability to measure up; will I put all my hope and trust in Christ's goodness on my behalf; will I pledge my allegiance to him, rather than to myself?”

Scandalous? Maybe. Intoxicatingly freeing? Absolutely. Why? Because it gets me over myself, and it allows me to really love others exactly where they are, without requiring them to change first. 

How many of us are willing to love like that?

Can we love Jesus, not because of what he can do for us, but simply because he himself is stunningly beautiful and lovely? Can we love those who are different from us, even if they never change or become like us, simply because God himself has loved them first? 

Can we love ourselves, not because of anything we do - or don’t do - but simply because God himself loves us already? Because God adores Jesus, and if we're with Jesus then we're ok too; what's ours is his, and what's his is ours, and nothing (not even pot) can separate us from the love of God!

We'd like to be a church where you can put THAT in your pipe and smoke it.