By Jess Dahl, Resonate Ellensburg staff
This week marks a celebration of freedom. As many head on vacation and take a break, the question of what freedom means and what we do with it feels very present on all fronts. Many view vacation as a time to indulge, check out, and relax however they can. For some friend groups, this can involve substance intake such as alcohol and the recently legal and formerly more taboo marijuana.
When it comes to partaking and celebrating, the topics of how much and what is permissible is often on the minds of young Christians. The illegality of cannabis used to clear up this conversation pretty directly. Since the Bible tells us to obey the law of the land, Christians had a black and white mandate when it came to illegal substances. Now, as marijuana has been made legal in all west coast states and many others, young Christians must research, pray, and make a wise decision.
To start to unravel the confusion, it is helpful to distinguish between the different forms of cannabis. Cannabis is a plant that grows naturally, and from it cannaboids are derived to make the marketable forms of the drug. There are over 60 forms of cannaboids found in the cannabis plant, but there are two main forms found on the market. THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is the psychoactive form of cannabis. It is the form that causes feelings of euphoria, or the “buzz” so often associated with the plant. Most strains are THC dominant, and this is the common association with cannabis. The other common cannaboid is CBD, or cannabidiol, often associated with the medical benefits of cannabis. It can be used as an anti-inflammatory, and also to treat epilepsy, anxiety, and insomnia. It is not mind altering, yet only accounts for 0-1% of strains found in the marketplace today.
Rather than debate whether it should be legalized or used medically or not, the hope of this article is to help Christians navigate the conversations that arise when it is promoted as good, helpful, and permissible to one who wishes to indulge recreationally. The legalization of marijuana has taken away the stigma, and many Christians today are encouraged to view it as a completely valid recreational activity. Many, however, remain in confusion. Is marijuana a non-issue for Christians? Should Christians recreationally use marijuana and cannabis?
1. “All things are permissible, yet not all things are beneficial,” (1 Corinthians 6:12, 10:23).
The language of “should or shouldn’t” in the Christian life are tricky to navigate. On this side of the cross, Jesus has given us access to God, and our actions are to be out of thankfulness for that act. After confession and repentance, we joyfully give Jesus control of our life. Rather than live under a set of rules, we live to follow our deepest hope in the person and work of Jesus. We set aside all things that get in the way or hinder us from knowing him deeper.
When it comes to social shoulds or shouldn'ts, alcohol and cannabis can sometimes get lumped together. In observing both the Old and New Testament, we uncover that wine has been given to gladden the hearts of man (Psalm 104:14-15), Jesus turned water to wine at a wedding (John 2), and often attended dinners with friends where wine was present. Yet we are not to get drunk (Galatians 5:21). So we are given some guidelines. Many who are proponents of recreational cannabis use point to the fact that marijuana use is never directly forbidden in the Bible and alcohol guidelines are the closest we have to go on.
Alcohol and cannabis are similar in that they are made from organic materials, they can both be abused and misused, and they can both distort reality.
They are dissimilar in that alcohol can be enjoyed in moderation, and that is harder if not impossible to achieve with marijuana that contains THC. The chemical compounds of alcohol and marijuana are very different, as are their effects on the brain. While alcohol can lead to addiction and alcoholism if abused, the long term effects are more direct and swift when it comes to regular recreational marijuana use. It can alter the brain if used heavily in teenage years in ways that cannot be undone, and has been correlated to schizophrenia and other health disorders with regular, long term use.
2. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind,” (Deuteronomy 6:5, Luke 10:27).
The ancient Greeks were known for subscribing to the idea that the body, soul, and the mind were separate entities. They wanted to believe that what happened in one realm did not affect the other. Jesus and his teachings reinforced the opposite idea. He claimed lordship over all the realms as their creator. His teachings implied that our hearts affected our thoughts and our actions. What we do to our bodies impacts our souls. This is talked about in the Christian idea of sex, that souls are mingled and it is not the careless physical act that our culture tries to sell us. In the same way, some claim that what we ingest doesn’t affect our soul or our heart.
If I want to smoke and get high, does that mean I’m a bad Christian? The answer lies in our heart. If we are looking for a physical relief and escape in getting high, it means we are looking for our comfort in something beside Jesus. The Bible calls this idolatry. If our minds are in an altered state, it gets in the way of us being “sober-minded” (1 Peter 5:8) about the urgent call Christ has given us as we remain on this earth and await his coming.
He is our joy. The pleasures of this earth can never compete with him. They typically only get in the way of us seeing him clearly. We already see as through a mirror dimly (1 Cor. 13:12), so why would a Christian want to further blur what we see and experience on this earth?
3. “Live according to the Spirit, not the flesh,” (Romans 8:5).
Following Christ means putting to death our old self and its desires. There is an adventure that awaits those who take God at his word and seek him at work in every moment. It is the greatest “high” there is, to invite him into each day, each moment, and join him at work. If you are bored with your life, or want to escape the pain of the world, Christ wants to meet you there and offer you his own version of an alternate reality—in fact, the only genuine reality there is. You don’t need to rely on a drug to do that. Christ came to give freedom, and to be dependent on any substance for your joy, peace, or fun sounds more like bondage than freedom.
As Christians, we are called to be counter-cultural. There are things we say “no” to because we are citizens of another kingdom. We have a savior with a mission, and he invites us into it with him. We have a purpose and it’s urgent, it’s life-giving, and it’s fun. We should throw off everything that hinders and run the race marked out for us (Hebrews 12:1-3).
For true freedom, seek Christ and his kingdom. If you are struggling with pain or depression, talk to your doctor about your options.
If you are currently using marijuana recreationally, invite God and your Christian friends to speak into this part of your life. Everything in our life, even what we do in our free time, matters to God. May we know true freedom and indulge in the right things in this short vapor of a life. Let us not miss a moment by checking out.