[Editor’s Note: Here at RELEVANT, we try to address issues we feel are important to our readers—from Christian perspectives on current events, to challenging thoughts on personal faith and relationships, to social justice issues and everything in-between. Part of our goal is to stir up conversation, but while we enjoy the feedback and dialogue about our articles in the comments section and social media, we wanted to give our readers a chance to get their questions answered.
To that end, we’re introducing Life 201, a weekly advice column headed by pastor, counselor and beloved RELEVANT Podcast member Eddie Kaufholz. Eddie will answer questions and give advice on any issue you want to hear about and keep your real name and identifying information anonymous. Just email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org No question is too big, strange, embarrassing or controversial, so ask away.]
Eddie, I live in Colorado where weed was recently legalized. As a Christian and proud Coloradan, can I smoke pot now?
Alright Kyle, sit back and inhale this wisdom.
Yes, as a Christian who is living in Colorado, you may smoke pot. In your mile-high state, it’s not against the law. The pure act of possessing, using, or “toking” as the kids say, keeps you safe in regards to Paul’s words in Romans 13 (Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, etc. etc.). You’re not breaking the law, so you’re good there.
Fear of breaking the societal laws has never been the driving standard by which Christians are to judge their actions, or the standard by with our actions are judged. Yes, we’re supposed to keep the law of the land, but doing that is purely a starting point. Where we go from there is much more complex. By way of obvious example, it’s legal to drink. And for you, having a craft beer may be wonderful. But for me, it may be the trailhead of a destructive path. Is it legal for both of us? Yes. Should we both be drinking? Certainly not.
Paul illustrates this point with typical brilliance and brevity. Here’s what he said:
“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive. -1 Corinthians 10:23 (NIV)
See what Paul did there? He acknowledged in Romans that the laws of [Colorado] are to be respected. But, he continues the conversation and challenges us to judge our actions based on our ability to be the beneficial and constructive people that God has called us to be. Which brings us back to smoking pot.
Can you smoke pot as a Coloradan Christian? Legally, yes. But smoking weed (and about a million other things that are legal) are not to be judged purely on the external consequences, but rather on the reality that we’re asked to do a job while we navigate life on this side of heaven. And quite practically, I think it would be hard to do that job stoned. So base your decision on that Kyle.
I made the stereotypical New Year’s Resolutions of working out and reading my Bible every day and I’m already breaking them. Why am I the worst?
You live in Portland? That place rules. Maybe when Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein read this column, they’ll ask you to do a cameo on Portlandia.
To your question, let me first say that you’re not the worst, by any means. The fact that you even care about doing good things puts you miles ahead of most of the people you know.
Here’s the issue, we confuse New Year’s Resolutions with New Day’s Resolutions. New Year’s Resolutions should be, to use a word that’s not a word, fail-able. They’re things you hope to do over the course of the year, but things that don’t really matter in the big scheme. So maybe you don’t learn Spanish this year, who cares? It would be nice to call your grandma every Friday, but she’s used to your current level of calling, so better luck in 2015. See what I’m saying? Fail-able.
However Nathan, you’ve picked New Day’s Resolutions, which are much more mission critical. These are things that you have to re-decide to do every single day, or they’re just not going to happen. And to pretend that making a pronouncement on January 1 will somehow propel you for the rest of the year is a recipe for failure.
Things worth doing are typically hard, and our better instincts will go to war against our natural tendencies. The stuff you’re trying to do will not be made so by crossing your fingers as the ball drops in Times Square. Your resolutions will come to fruition as you set your alarm clock a little earlier, forgo an episode of the latest Netflix binge and essentially create margin for discipline in your life. So commit every day, give yourself grace when (not if) you screw up. Remember that you’re not a failure if you miss a few days—you can always start again the next day. And, above all, tell your friends.
Yes, let your friends in on these New Day’s Resolutions. Nobody can go it alone. Your friends like you, and they want you to succeed. Let them be your cheerleaders.
It’s a New Day, Nathan, go get ‘em. We’re all rooting for you. Also, call your grandma already.
And so ends the first edition of Life 201. I am honored to be in the foxhole with you all and look forward to chatting with you throughout the week in the comments below and on Twitter. Until then…
Have a question? Good! Send an email to email@example.com. All identifying information will be kept anonymous.
Eddie Kaufholz is a writer, speaker and podcaster and serves as a director of church mobilization for International Justice Mission. He also hosts and produces "The New Activist" podcast. You can find on Twitter @EdwardorEddie.