Today, our men’s discipleship group met in a new location. Due to some necessary re-organizational issues, we have started meeting at the same location as we do our church services. This is at the Armada Spasy (Salvation Army) building which is actually not far from our original location. Our meeting today was a good one and had some passionate but respectful discussion about topics such as smoking and how it affected our life in the Spirit.
The main subject was about the fruits of the Spirit but we did get off on the specific topic of smoking. Most importantly, we looked at the contrast between the works of the flesh and the attributes of the spirit. The verses we focused on were from Galatians 5:16-26 with an emphasis on 22 & 23. In my experience, here in central and eastern Europe, many believers concentrate on specific things like smoking which they view as evidence of the old life in the flesh and in their opinion should be removed from the life of a Christian. They asked my opinion about this and here is basically what I shared:
- In my own personal life, I have smoked and the Lord helped me to overcome this addiction after I was saved. The main reason I quit was not so much because I was afraid it offended God but honestly, because I was afraid of cancer. In my family history, there is a high instance of cancer.
- If we are honest with our assessment of scripture and sin, there is no reference to smoking or cigarettes in the Bible at all. So, how do we pinpoint that behavior with a notion that it is more offensive to God than some other things? Of course, this line of thinking usually goes back to the passage from 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 where we are told that our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit. I then reminded the men that there are other things which are bad for our bodies. For instance, what is a person knows that he (or she) is diabetic and he does not take care of himself and he eats a lot of sweets and things which he knows will make him sick? Think about it. Of course, these two things are not exactly the same but I think it is a good analogy. Yes, I know that smoking is a choice and that some people are born with diabetes. Yet, in both cases the way we deal with these things has a bearing on how healthy we will be after we are confronted with a “choice” of how to treat our bodies in the light of scriptural expectation.
- Next, I mentioned to them that since “cigarettes” are not actually mentioned in the Bible, maybe we should focus on things which are… like the behavior mentioned in Galatians 5:20-21. Why should we single out smoking when we don’t put much emphasis on things like jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition or dissensions?
Ok, let’s wrap this up with me saying that I in no way believe that smoking is good for your body and it is common knowledge that is harms us and can shorten our lives. I wish that every smoker would stop this habit. However, in the Christian community, I think that we should encourage folks to stop smoking with hearts motivated by compassion and concern and not try to condemn them to hell over it while other “christians” are given a free pass with their bad behavior which sometimes is even more damning to the cause of Christ. Amen?