I can imagine most people looking at the title might do so with a bit of confusion. I usually do not address social issues as they can be so divisive because of their subjectivity. That being said on October 17th, recreational cannabis will be legal in Canada. That means possessing and using cannabis will be permitted to those of legal age, 18 or 19, depending on the province. For years, some have been touting the medical benefits of it, although even that is highly debated. However, with the legalization, it does raise some concerns amongst Christians. In fact, I have spoken to many Christians who say they will “try it” once it becomes legal.
As I contemplated the legalization of cannabis, I began thinking about the Christian response to using other recreational “drugs” such as alcohol. I know my view is rather moderate, but this is much different than just a couple generations ago. Prohibition regarding the use of alcohol became a hot topic in our country back in the late 19th century into the early 20th. People debated with each other over the dangers of alcohol consumption citing drunkenness behavior and the damage it could cause along with the physical damage on the body. It became so polarizing Christians from across the nation banded together, using their influence to ban it for a time.
Over time, things settled down and a minimum age requirement was put in place and standards for consumption. In the end, within the Christian context, many settled into a “moderation” mindset. That being said it does not mean the argument regarding its use died. When I was in school, we had two chapels dedicated to the use of alcohol. The speaker’s conclusion was alcohol consumption was not a part of a growing Christian’s lifestyle.
Today’s blog is not about whether it is right or wrong to consume government “controlled” substances like cannabis or alcohol. What I think is important is to find what principles from Scripture that applies to choices we have to make in regards to these things. In biblical times, cannabis was, for the most part, an unknown. But Paul addresses certain grey areas in 1 Corinthians 6 by applying some common sense and a little godly wisdom.
In 6:12-20, Paul writes, “I have the right to do anything,” you say – but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything” – but I will not be mastered by anything. You say, “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food, and God will destroy them both.” The body, however, is not meant for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. By his power, God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never! Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, “The two will become one flesh.” But whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit. Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.”
Paul begins with a statement that many Christians take out of context: “I have the right to do anything…” In Christ there is liberty. We are no longer constrained by the Old Testament law. We are now free to make choices and live our lives as we please. But Paul goes on to say that not all things are “beneficial.” In other words, not everything we are “free” to do is good for us. The danger is we turn our freedom or liberty in Christ into a license to sin. We use it as a Monopoly “Get out of jail” free card. But is that the intention Paul had here?
Paul goes on to state that “I will not be mastered by anything.” I think that is key to understanding Paul’s philosophy regarding the “grey” areas of life. For the Christian, there is only one Master in our lives. In Galatians 5:18, Paul declares, “But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law” and Romans 8:11 tells us, “If that same Spirit that raised Christ dwells in you…” Our master is not our power to choose, rather it is the Spirit of God who leads us. Just as the law was a schoolmaster prior to Christ, guiding and directing the people to live holy lives, the Spirit of God liberates us and leads us forward through life to glorify God. And if the Spirit is leading, He will not lead us to do things that are contrary to the Word or to do things that allow something or someone else to take mastery over us.
Paul goes on to say that our “bodies are members of Christ himself.” We do not belong to ourselves. In verse 20, Paul reminds the Christians in Corinth that they were “not your own; you were bought with a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.” All we are, bodies included, were created to honor God. Jesus died so we could be made righteous, holy and used for His glory.
Using sexual immorality, Paul illustrates how this works. If we are united with Christ, one in Him, to unite ourselves out of the context of marriage to another would contravene God’s commandment in how we are to live our lives. He reminds them again that their bodies are vessels for God’s Spirit. Ephesians 4:13b-14 says, “When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.” Paul’s point was this: if our bodies are vessels for God, what we use it for, whether if it is something we consume or do, will have an effect on what and whom it already contains.
So what is the Christian response to the legalization of cannabis? I’m not sure there is a “yes” or “no” answer to this. The government has deemed it legal. But from principles we can glean from Scripture, we need to be careful in how we tread in the days ahead. Yes, there are legal questions still having to be worked out with driving, use at work, public use and growing your own, but for the Christian, it comes back to how we approach all things in life.
We were created to enjoy almost everything in God’s creation, but not everything available in creation is necessarily good for us. In the end, it all comes back to Paul’s words: “I have the right to do anything… but not everything is beneficial.” In these uncertain days, may God’s Spirit lead us in the way we should go that nothing would have mastery over us but God Himself.