Thursday, July 31, 2014

What Legalizing Marijuana Teaches Me About Christian Liberty

I am writing this post from beautiful southern Colorado where I spend a week every year with my husband's family. This is the first time I've been here since the state legalized marijuana last year, and it's kind of weird to think that I could just go to a store and buy pot if I wanted to. It's hard for me to get my head around the fact that something I have always categorized as "bad" and "dangerous" is now considered normal, natural, and completely legal.

I've never done a drug in my life - for lots of reasons, a big one being I didn't want to break the law. So, now that the law prohibiting its use in Colorado has been abolished, it got me thinking (hypothetically, I assure you), why wouldn't I try it while I'm here? I mean, since I'm legally free to do it, what's the big deal?

Well, for one thing, there are serious health issues to consider. You are four times more likely to have a heart attack in the hour after smoking marijuana. Pot smoke is 50-70% more carcinogenic than tobacco smoke. THC has been linked to greater incidences of psychosis, depression and anxiety. So there's that.

Furthermore, I wouldn't want to upset my husband, since he would be opposed to the idea, or set a bad example for my nieces who are here with us. I wouldn't want to get behind the wheel and endanger others on the road. So there are social ramifications to consider, as well.

Here's my point: Even though it is completely legal for me to smoke pot in Colorado, I still choose not to because it's not beneficial for me to do so.

And therein lies the theological principle.

God's Word says we have been released from the Old Testament law with all its rules and regulations because Jesus set us free. Now, incredibly, all things are permissible for us. (Romans 7:6, 1 Cor. 6:12)  However, just because we are free to do what we want doesn't mean that everything is good for us. 1 Corinthians 6:12 in the Amplified Bible nails it,

“Everything is permissible (allowable and lawful) for me; but not all things are helpful (good for me to do, expedient and profitable when considered with other things). Everything is lawful for me, but I will not become the slave of anything or be brought under it power.” 

Even though we are no longer under the Law and are permitted to do all things, it doesn’t mean that we should. Just like smoking pot would be bad for me, sinful behavior is detrimental to our spiritual lives and can lead to devastating consequences.

When we truly understand what Christian liberty means, our motivation changes. Our obedience becomes an expression of our love for God, not just a legalistic obligation. Remember Jesus' words in Matthew? He said that the two greatest commandments were to 1) love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and 2) to love our neighbor as ourselves. In fact, he said that all the laws hang on these two commandments. As U2 put it, "Love is the higher law."

If we are seeking to live lives of freedom from the law yet obedient to Christ, the best rule of thumb is to ask yourself, "Is what I'm doing the best way to love God, others, and myself?"

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