At the beginning of this month the American South was devastated by 65 confirmed tornado touchdowns in less than 72 hours. The storms resulted in 41 fatalities and countless injuries. Immediately following the horrific storms many in the Christian community began to weigh in, as often we do. We aim, with our words to bring comfort, perhaps hope and, at times, to help make sense of what has happened from a biblical point of view. Following nearly every such event, one well known American Evangelical can be counted on to give his perspective.

Within 48 hours of the last tornado touchdown, Pastor John Piper had posted “Fierce Tornadoes and the Fingers of God” to his Desiring God blog. In his article, Piper wrote…

“We do not ascribe such independent power to Mother Nature or to the devil. God alone has the last say in where and how the wind blows. If a tornado twists at 175 miles an hour and stays on the ground like a massive lawnmower for 50 miles, God gave the command.”

Piper went on to identify five verses that seem to lend support to his view that God, by His sovereign power, directed the awesome power of these storms to bring about the death and destruction that ensued.

Several well known evangelicals have weighed in on Piper’s words, some uttering their own words in agreement with “amens,” while others challenged his theology. Although I’m not in full agreement with Pastor Piper and have several contentions with the passages he chose to support his view, I do agree with his three concluding points, (1) that we can (and should) bless God in the midst of such tragedy, (2) that events such as these should soberingly inspire repentance, and that (3) Christians are not exempt from such suffering. My purpose here is not necessarily to challenge or question Piper’s theology or position, rather to pose a question that came to my mind as I read his blog earlier this month.

When I visited the Desiring God blog mid-month I found it interesting that this featured article sat right next to another Piper article entitled “Tell Your Children What Hitler Did.” Upon seeing that title, I was immediately struck with a thought, “If I’m to believe that tragedies such as these terrible storms, which took the lives of 41 Americans were the act of God’s sovereign direction and plan, then why not entitle the second featured article, “Tell Your Children What God Did [to the Jews]?”

Just a thought…

Pastoral Busyness as Idolatry

Most pastors that I know, including myself, struggle with being excessively busy. We see how many things we can pile on our ministerial plates. We know that ministering within a local congregation itself is more than a full time job. Most people, who have never walked in the shoes of a pastor, imagine the pastor sitting all day with his feet up, sipping coffee, reading the Bible and generally basking in the Shekinah. For many of us, we expected this when we sensed the Spirit’s call for us into ministry. But in reality, for most of us, it is long days of counseling. Sure there is coffee, but normally accompanied by the tears and struggles of the person sitting across the table from you. There are continual issues, emails, phone calls, meetings and preparation. Whether it be physical (like a broken sound system, coffee pot or a balky back), emotional (us on the top of that list), relational (no there are never any interpersonal conflicts in church), societal (some real world happening that is dramatically impacting) or spiritual (growing in Christ is a messy business), it really never ends. For most of us, instead of basking in the Shekinah, we drag ourselves into the pulpit with broken prayers for the Spirit to speak despite ourselves. And that leaves out budgeting, family time and the most important reality of a prayer life and relationship with God Himself. Please don’t feel that I am complaining or lamenting. I am not. I am just trying to set the stage.

You see all of that is more than a full time job (and for many of us, we also work a day job). But yet, for so many of us, there are a million and one other things that we find ourselves doing in God’s name. Chaplaincy, disaster response, blogging (like I am doing right now), countless hours doing innumerable good things. Oftentimes, pastors have a ton of additional things that they are involved in. For many of us, if we are not busy, then we are not pastoring. If we are pastoring and also busy, then we have value in the ministry. If we can say that our calendar is full then we justify our existence. When we get to the end of our day and we are exhausted, we can say to ourselves, “You are God’s man, well done, good and faithful servant!”.

But we are valuing ourselves not by the resurrection of Jesus Christ and His love and grace. Instead we are valuing ourselves by our busyness. I have often asked myself, “Would I be bored in my Christian walk if there wasn’t so much ministry to do?” I struggle with my own heart’s response. I would be restless and bored. That makes me nervous. Should I be restless or bored with Jesus alone? We all know the answer to that!


When I Knew Everything

I had been a Christian for two years.  I was sitting in a service at a church I’d recently started attending.  As I listened to the pastor preach his sermon I found myself asking hosts of critical and, I thought, righteous questions.

“What is this guy even talking about?  Why doesn’t he preach expository sermons?  Why doesn’t he emphasize this or that doctrine more?  Why does he use that method to invite people to trust in the gospel?  Is this series ever going to end?  Why doesn’t he just hire someone else to take his spot and move into a subordinate role?  Why can’t he come up with a vision and mission I can get on board with?  Does our church even have a mission and vision?”  Blah, blah, blah.

 The funny thing (perhaps sad thing) is that when I was in my season of offering church leaders my hardest and most continuous criticisms over these kinds of issues thinking I was all-knowing about everything to do with church/ministry, I was totally inexperienced.  I’d never spent a single day in the shoes of a pastor, delivered or prepared a single sermon, led a Bible study, crafted any kind of mission or vision statement, trained teams, planted a church, or anything else.  And yet, I thought I had all the answers about how to solve everything those above me were doing wrong.

I describe myself during those days as suffering from what I now call “New-believer syndrome.”  This isn’t to be a knock on new followers of Jesus at all!  Not all new Christians go through what I did.  But the truth is that its very common for new Christians to go through a season after only being saved for a short time in which they get really critical and arrogant.  That was me.  My mindset was like, “Well of course I know everything about Christianity and the church!  I’ve been a Christian for six months, haven’t I! “

Getting Educated

Fast forward.  Now I’ve been in vocational ministry for over seven years.  And what God has slowly showed me through granting the education of actual street-level experience beyond the education of books I’d read and messages I’d heard early on about ministry is that I really knew far less than I thought I did!  I think back to those days of criticizing and challenging my leaders with embarrassment and shame.  I praise God that He was gracious and didn’t give me the cosmic knee-capping I deserved in my arrogance and ignorance.  As I got opportunities to lead I began to discover why leaders do things at times that I used to scoff at.  I learned that there are many things about ministry that you just can’t understand unless you actually are in the positions and go through the experiences.

 Meeting Others Who Know Everything

Now that I’ve been in vocational ministry, served as a pastor and planted churches, and have done lots of leadership training I’ve had the wonderful experience of meeting people who currently have the critical mentality from which I used to suffer.  The saddest and most heart-breaking thing I sometimes see is when people are stuck in this mentality five, ten, or even twenty or more years after meeting Jesus.  As I look back at my own experience and journey and observe others who are stuck in a spirit of criticism there seem to be some common contributing factors to developing this mindset:

1. Pride has always been a struggle

If you have a history of being arrogant, self-important, and a know-it-all in general before becoming a Christian, pride becomes an area of temptation the enemy really hammers you on in your new relationship with Jesus.  Much of those critical thoughts come from your own sinful flesh, and the rest of them come from demonic temptation at work in your mind.

2. They read far more books about the Bible than the Bible itself

For about the first two years of my relationship with Jesus the only times I’d actually crack my Bible open was when I was looking for a proof text to support a doctrine I’d learned from another book, or when I was at church.  What this led to was me using other books as my lens through which I filtered the Bible rather than me using the Bible as the lens through which I filtered the other books I read.  Because of this, when I got into debates about the criticisms I was voicing I would inevitably quote human authors instead of God’s word to prove my point.  That’s a dangerous place to dwell.

 3. They do most of their studying in isolation

Many people who come to Jesus today don’t get involved in local churches.  There is a huge disconnect here.  In the book of Acts no one who got saved refrained from getting involved in the life of the local church.  That isn’t to say you’re not saved if you aren’t in consistent community with other believers who make up a local church.  Its simply to point out that your willful practice of not being in community with a local church is way out of step with the biblical example.  God isn’t merely saving disconnected individuals scattered throughout the world; He is saving a people, a called-out assembly, and an interconnected, interdependent body.[1]

 The biblical example shows us that studying is to be done in community under experienced and equipped, spiritually gifted leaders.[2]  Personal Bible study is so valuable and necessary.  But so is study in community. Without others who are more spiritually mature and biblically educated challenging our conclusions and criticisms we develop unhealthy perspectives and unhelpful attitudes.

If pride has always been an issue for you, you read more books about the Bible than the Bible itself, and you do most of your study in isolation, you are a prime candidate to become today’s Inexperienced and All-knowing!


Maybe you are one of today’s Inexperienced and All-knowing in the church. Or maybe you’re dealing with one of them right now.  If you’re dealing with one, chances are that you played the part of the Inexperienced and All-knowing of yesteryear.  But let me wrap this post up with encouragement for you both.

To today’s Inexperienced and All-knowing, please stop!  You don’t know as much as you think.  You’re hurting your leaders, not helping them.  And Jesus really is quite able to take care of His people without your arrogance and methods.  He’s chosen the leaders who are over you and you need to submit to Him by submitting to them, even though they are weak.  Have you considered that their weaknesses might be the precise reasons God chose them?  Read 1 Corinthians 1:26-31 and ask God for illumination.

To yesterday’s Inexperienced and All-knowing the message is simple- Don’t kill anyone!  Humble yourself and remember your own journey. First, repent to God for your former attitudes.  Next you may need to repent to the person you used to criticize.  After being a lead pastor for two months that is exactly what I had to do and it was healthy for me and the other pastor.  Lastly, deal with this mentality in those who come your way with grace and boldness.

“And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient…” 2 Timothy 2:24 NKJV

 “Preach the Word! Be ready in season and out of season.  Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.” 2 Timothy 4:2 NKJV


[1] Eph. 4:11-17; 1 Cor. 12; Acts 2:41-47; Ephesians as a whole.

[2] Acts 2:42; Titus 1:9

To Him Who Has Ears to Hear

It happened during the revival that took place in Judah, under the godly leadership of Hezekiah. They’d not observed Passover in a great while. Imagine that … no “communion” for many years in Israel or Judah! In fact, Hezekiah’s father Ahaz had been so corrupt and idolatrous that he’d completely shut down the temple, and cut off all sacrifices and worship to Yahweh.

So after making the Levites and priests sanctify themselves and then clean out the temple, sacrifices began again. The joy of worship and the covenant returned to God’s people. That’s when they moved to celebrate Passover, out of sheer appreciation for the LORD.

Hezekiah wanted to reach out to his brethren in the north, to the ten tribes of Israel. They’d been even more corrupt than Judah, but Hezekiah could not and would not hide their Lamp under a bushel. Good news is intended for sharing. So he sent out “evangelists” to invite their brethren to Jerusalem, that they might join them in the Passover and get right with God, and experience the joy of renewed and reconciled hearts.

2 Chronicles 30:10-11 So the runners passed from city to city through the country of Ephraim and Manasseh, as far as Zebulun; but they laughed at them and mocked them. {11} Nevertheless some from Asher, Manasseh, and Zebulun humbled themselves and came to Jerusalem. 

As these runners went out, they were met with mixed responses. Many laughed and mocked them. But some humbled themselves and responded to the good news.

I’m impressed by the fact that the runners went out, that they shared the great news, that they invited many to join in their worship of Yahweh … even though many would reject the message! They persevered in their invitation. They did not focus on the ones who would laugh and mock, but rather upon those who would humble themselves and join in.

This reminds me of the persistence and motivation of the apostle Paul, who said “Therefore I endure all things for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory” (2 Timothy 2:10). Paul knew there would be some who would respond and become part of God’s family, so he endured the laughing, the mocking, the ostracism, the persecution … his prize was God’s chosen ones, the ones who would believe. Of course, Paul’s prize is the Lord’s prize. The hidden treasure in the field (the church) was so worth it to Jesus that He went and sold all that He had to purchase the field (that He might have the treasure).

So here’s where this all shakes out for me, and I think for us.

I think we should be much more concerned for those who haven’t had a fair hearing, than about those who will laugh and mock.

I minister in Santa Cruz County. Recently, a guest speaker (a worldwide traveler who has ministered in many, many places here and abroad) made the comment that in all the places he’s ever been, Santa Cruz is the darkest place of all of them. Then he congratulated the fellowship for coming to Christ and being together as a body.

So yes, it’s a dark and challenging place. There is much opposition to the gospel here. There are many who mock the message of Christianity, and the Jesus they think is the real Jesus. They laugh.

But who cares? I/we need not be concerned about such folks. They may or may not respond when presented with the gospel of grace. It’s their choice. When resisted or rejected, we’ll just shake the dust off our feet and find those that will humble themselves and receive the good news.

I’m convinced of this: the Lord has His people in this place. There are numerous pre-Christians waiting to be told about our Blessed Master … and invited to join in.

They will be our focus. The gospel of grace, the preaching of the cross and resurrection, will be our message. We will be known for what we’re for, not for what we’re against. We’ll love Jesus, live for Jesus, and preach Jesus. Those who will come, will come. That’s our mission, worth enduring everything for.

What’s the Big Deal? – Daniel Fusco

Our view of our church members: People, Machinery, or Scenery?

From what I’ve been told, (which I haven’t been able to verify personally), a study was done many years ago by a student at a University in the North Western part of the United States.  As I understand it, the study was undertaken in order to discover how the people that live in that part of the country view other people.  The study was conducted by interviewing a variety of people and asking them to express their views about their family members, friends, acquaintances, and also those people that they observe but don’t interact with.

The conclusion of the study was that these “average” Americans basically placed people into one of the following 3 categories:  People, Machinery, or Scenery.

PEOPLE:  were those people that the interviewees had “real” realtionships with.  This included immediate family members, close friends, and a few others.  They knew the “stories” of those they considered PEOPLE, shared their own story with them, and were genuinely concerned about what was going on in their lives.

MACHINERY:  were those people that they interacted with as part of just living day to day life and who usually were fulfilling some kind of function that the interviewee needed in order to live life, (like the teller at the bank, the gas station attendant, the waitress, the lady behind the counter at the DMV, and so forth).  The MACHINERY were the people that they interacted with out of necessity, not out of choice.   The service or utility or function these people provided and that was needed by the interviewee was all the interviewee was interested in.  There was no interest in getting to know them, making themselves known to them, or showing care for them in any way.  What mattered was whether this person accomplished the task that the interviewee was deriving a benefit from.  And if that task wasn’t accomplished to the satisfaction of the interviewee, then even less thought was given to that person as a person and a mental note was made to discover someone else who was more competent at completing the function.

SCENERY: were those people, usually culturally or socio-enomically different than the interviewee, who were visible to them at different times, but usually at a distance.  In other words the interviewee knew they were out there and that they occupied space in the same little part of the world that they lived life in, but they didn’t have reason to interact with or engage them.  In many cases, they said that the distinction between these people and the actual scenery that surrounds day to day life such as trees, stop-lights, billboards, fences, etc., had been blurred to them.  Every now and then something would trigger a thought in them that forced them to recognize that these people really were people and not scenery, but that didn’t happen that often.

In my own travels and my ministry to Americans and those of other cultures both here in America and in other countries, I’ve come to the conclusion that placing other people into one of these categories is pretty much an expression of our self-knowledge that we are limited and can’t know at a real level all of the people that make up our day to day lives.  It’s beyond our capacity.  But because of our sin nature, we are generally content to leave people in those categories and never make an effort to personalize them.  We’re content to leave them in one of those two non-person categories.  This is universal, it exists in all cultures.

This really isn’t surprising to me.

What is surprising is that this universal, sin-influenced cultural trait, hasn’t been abandoned by those who are new creations in Christ.  And because this cultural trait either hasn’t been thought about or examined and compared to what God has to say about the person hood and value of each person created in His image and likeness, local churches inadvertently end up interacting with and then treating their own attendees the same way those in the world do.

As pastors and leaders, do we view the majority of those people sitting in the sanctuary at each of our church services as really nothing more than beautiful SCENERY that we enjoy with our eyes alone?  SCENERY that we love to view as a beautiful forest each week, but a forest whose trees we really don’t care about considering individually?

As pastors and leaders, do we view those that make the service run, (ushers, the audio & visual guys, parking lot attendants, even Children’s ministry servants and so forth), as just MACHINERY that is essential for the functioning of the service and really nothing more?

As pastors and leaders, do we only view our families and fellow staff as PEOPLE?  Are we content with viewing everyone else as either MACHINERY or SCENERY and then being satisfied with the minimal level of interaction that is required for relating to MACHINERY or SCENERY?

Even though there are those who attend our services and are content being viewed as SCENERY for a while–content to be viewed as part of the overall forest, they eventually will desire to be viewed and interacted with as an individual tree that is not only a significant member of the forest, but also significant to those they consider Godly.

Even though our faithful members who perform functions for the good of the whole operation know they are a part of the MACHINERY of the service, they probably also believe that they are viewed by their church leaders as PEOPLE.

Do we as leaders stop treating them as PEOPLE if they no longer perform the function that is necessary for the operation of the church service?  If we stop interacting with them as PEOPLE because they no longer serve as a part of the MACHINERY, maybe we never viewed them as PEOPLE in the first place?

And if that is what we communicate to them, either intentionally or unintentionally, we shouldn’t be surprised if they move on, wounded as they depart.

Even though our capacity for personally interacting with others as PEOPLE is limited by our finiteness, we should regularly question ourselves as to whether we have inadvertently been expressing to others in any way, shape, or form, that viewing other people as MACHINERY or SCENERY is acceptable to us, to our fellow leaders, and or to God.  We definitely don’t want to go there.  But has that been where we’ve been?



And one last thought.  How about asking 4 or 5 PEOPLE that we do interact with as PEOPLE, (and not just paid staff, but others who serve in some capacity in the church), on a regular basis whether in their opinion, we have been treating others as something other than people?  And then…..humbly accept their perspective of us as valid and respond appropriately.




“I Love Jesus But Not the Church”

There was a recent Youtube video by a guy out of the state of Washington who talks about his hate of religion but his love for Jesus. There have been countless replies and I guess mine is no different except for one… I love the Church.

You see whenever people lop in religion, church, Christianity, politics, etc. they always arrive at the final destination that we are all Pharisees and that Jesus came to rebuke them. Anybody who has studied the Bible for more than five minutes knows that it is not only false but the exact opposite… Jesus didn’t come to rebuke the religious but instead point out their errors in hopes of seeing them repent (which in the end many of them did).

The church, or religion as they like to call it, is the Bride of Christ and it has a special place in God’s heart. You only have to read Revelation 19 to see that Marriage Supper of the Lamb is to the church, and most specifically the New Testament church. Jesus cares for and nurtures his Bride like any man would who is engaged to someone he loves.

We could point out a lot of flaws in the church but if we truly believe that God is sovereign and all knowing then we have to believe that when He created the church he knew it would be a place for perfectly flawed people. I, as a pastor, am comfortable with that. I love nothing more than seeing seriously broken people come into the church and be restored. That is what God designed it for and it is the only place it happens.

Let’s address some of the issues. The first knock is that the church doesn’t feed the hungry. Hmmmm, I don’t know about your town but in Lompoc the church is the ONLY group that does feed them and I am sure that is true in most cities. To say that feeding the poor should be the main focus, which is asserted by it reference, it shortsighted. No one ever has come to Christ because of a bowl of soup, but because the Holy Spirit was working through the church in their service to Him to move on the heart of the people.

Second, Christians don’t vote Republican because that is the Christian thing to do. They vote against the liberal, progressive, freedom-stealing policies of those politicians who usually happen to fall into the Democratic camp. Sadly the younger generation see politics from a social justice perspective where as older generations see politics from a personal freedom perspective. I grew up in a family that voted for Democrats by default and we rejoiced when Jimmy Carter was elected. What a train wreck! Now thirty-six years later he is seen as a knight in shining armor.

Finally you could say that you love Jesus but hate religion but if you profess to be a Christian then you would essentially be saying that you hate yourself. As a Christian you are part of the church (religion) and thus the Bride of Christ. And Christ laid down his life for you, the church, and all those Pharisees.

A Conundrum for Calvinists

I am reading Roger Olson’s “Against Calvinism.” It is a well researched and well reasoned exposition of the Biblical and logical flaws of that doctrine.  It reminded me of a few ‘conundrums for Calvinists’ I wrote up a few years ago.  Please allow me to present one of them to you.  Implicit within the story is why I, too, reject Calvinism.

I have been invited to your home for a visit.  Upon arrival, I hear noise in the back yard and note that the side gate is open.  Walking around the house and into the back yard I discover that the noise is being made by your two year old little girl in the swimming pool.  It takes but a second to realize that the sound isn’t the joyful glee of play, but the frantic effort to keep from drowning.  And drown she will if I don’t intervene.  But I have chosen not to intervene and allow that event to unfold into the eventuality of her death.  I stand and watch as your daughter thrashes wildly around, takes her last breath, and closes her eyes forever.

After a moment you emerge from the back door of the home calling the name of your daughter.  Your eyes are drawn to my figure and are surprised to see me there and say so.  My gazing into the pool pulls your eyes down and you see her lying silent and still.  Jumping into the pool you grab her and immediately, instinctively know that she is dead.  The realization overwhelms you.  You yell for your wife to call 911 and begin the attempt to resuscitate her, but all to no avail.  The emergency personnel arrive and their attempts also prove futile.  She is lifted into the ambulance and transported to the morgue.

In an attempt to understand the tragedy that has taken place and how it came about, you question me.  To your utter horror, you discover that I was a witness to the final moments of your daughter’s life.  I recount how I came around the house through the side gate and saw your daughter in a life and death struggle in the pool.  “Why didn’t you jump in and save her?”  Your question is asked through a veil of tears and in rising anger.  “Yes, I could have, but I chose otherwise.  I was under no obligation to save her.  It wasn’t me who left the back door of your house open.  It wasn’t me who forgot to close the gate to the pool.  It wasn’t me who lost track of the where-a-bouts of your daughter.  And though I could have intervened and saved your daughter, I am in no way responsible for the course of events that led to her drowning death.”  I defend myself from your unjust charge that somehow my failure to rescue your daughter reflects poorly upon me and throws my character into an unfavorable light.

Regardless of what I say, no matter how vigorously I defend myself, in spite of how logically I shift all the blame to you, you will think me the most despicable, most damnable person who ever walked the face of this planet.  I could have saved her, but I didn’t – that’s all you see, that’s all you know, and that’s how you will judge me the rest of your life.  “But”, I protest, “I loved your daughter so much that I would have done anything to save her from this fate.”  Your anger towards me turns to confusion as you think through the hypocrisy of my actions as measured against the illogic my words.  I say that I loved your daughter so much that I exhausted all my efforts to save her – except jumping in and saving her.  From that day on, you will want nothing to do with me and my bizarre way of thinking and nonsensical notions.

The Calvinist has a problem.  Within the Calvinist position, God has the power to save all, but not the will to save all.  God has done everything in Christ to secure the salvation of sinners, except to savingly elect them.  He can, but He chooses not to.  God can save all from the unceasing terrors of hell, yet He chooses otherwise.  Why?  To the praise of His glory (or so we’re told).  I could jump in and save your daughter, but I have made a choice to let her drown.  You have considered me (rightly) the most despicable, damnable person on the planet.  God can save all, but chooses to save some.  My choice to allow your daughter to die a cruel death makes me damnable in your sight.  God’s choice to do nothing while sinners go to the eternal horrors of hell makes Calvinists praise Him all the more.  What you find despicable in me you find laudable in God though His decisions affect billions for eternity.  I do nothing and your daughter has a few moments of pain and terror.  God does nothing and billions suffer the agonizing torments of hell for all eternity.  I am to be damned and God is to be praised.  My refusal to make a choice for life reveals my utter depravity.  God’s refusal to make a choice for life reveals His holiness.  Here is a moral disconnect.  I, too, reject Calvinism.

Calvinists give theological priority to the will of God, not the nature of God.  Yet the nature of God is more basic to Him than His will.

The fundamental error of Calvinism is giving theological priority to the will of God.  Nature is more basic than will.

Will is the expression of nature.  God’s nature isn’t arbitrary – God is love.  The sovereignty of God expresses the nature of God – His love.  Sovereignty doesn’t mean that God is arbitrary.  It doesn’t mean that He can do anything He wants to.  It means that He can pursue whatever course He desires that is in keeping with His nature.  The Bible says, “God is love.”

The Bible doesn’t say, “God is will.”  God has a will, but He is love.  What you are is more basic than what you possess.  God cannot will to be what He is not.

Calvinism desires to maintain the freedom of God, but freedom is not something God is too terribly afraid of losing.  The nature of God is love.  Love binds you to people.  I am in glorious bondage to my wife, children, grandchildren, friends, and church.  I am not free to do as I will in an arbitrary manner.  I am free to love; I am not free not to love.  Not to love is sin to one whose nature is love.  Again, I believe the error is giving priority to the sovereignty of God rather than the love of God.  Calvinists bend God’s love to His sovereignty.  God’s will bends to His nature; sovereignty bends to love.


Legalize Marijuana?

During the Q&A following our service last night the following question was texted in…

Sorry if this is off topic but with it being in the news so often its hard not to notice, with pat robertson endorsing decriminalization of cannabis what should our position as christians on medical cannabis and cannabis in general?

I didn’t take time last night to answer it as I hadn’t heard or read about Pat Robertson’s statements and I wanted to make sure that I understood his position. That said, I do have some thoughts on this issue and having had a chance to look at what Robertson actually said, I figured I’d post an answer here.

The discussion of marijuana legalization is an interesting one, and I’m fairly certain that within a generation it will be legalized in the US. Public opinion on the subject is shifting and the younger demographic (i.e. Millennials) is largely in favor of the move. So, whether or not Christians and the Church agree with the move, we will very likely see a legislative shift within 10-15 years, or sooner.

Add to the discussion Pat Robertson’s remarks from earlier this month. Although they flew under my radar (which isn’t terribly hard to do), Robertson’s views are not new. He’s been advocating this stance for a couple of years, and primarily for pragmatic reasons.

“I just think it’s shocking how many of these young people wind up in prison and they get turned into hardcore criminals because they had a possession of a very small amount of a controlled substance, the whole thing is crazy. We’ve said, ‘Well, we’re conservatives, we’re tough on crime.’ That’s baloney.”

On this point, I basically agree.

Robertson also said, “I really believe we should treat marijuana the way we treat beverage alcohol. I’ve never used marijuana and I don’t intend to, but it’s just one of those things that I think: this war on drugs just hasn’t succeeded.” Again, I don’t necessarily disagree on this point either. My primary concern is that many of the politicians I’ve read or heard on this subject have come at it from a totally different angle that concerns me. The reasoning goes something like this, “The war on drugs is costing us billions and is not working, we could legalize and regulate the marijuana industry in such a way that it generates great revenue for the government.” If we’re going to legalize and regulate marijuana solely to make money for the government, then why not prostitution or other controlled substances? Do we really cast aside morals for profit? What precedent does this set and what are the other unintended consequences of doing so with marijuana?

I am not against the lawful use of alcohol as the Bible allows for it’s use; as long as such use is not in excess, which the bible defines as drunkenness (Ephesians 5:18). There is however a lot of unlawful and excessive use in America, which has grave and costly consequences; such as the human cost… This year upwards of 10,839 people will die in drunk-driving crashes – one every 50 minutes. There will be huge economic and human costs associated with marijuana legalization too; many of which will not be realized until after it’s legalization. The questions abound; how do employers deal with marijuana smoking employees? How does the military? Is there a “legal limit” that can be smoked, or how does law enforcement enforce such a DUI charge for Marijuana? etc…

I could certainly go on, but ultimately this begs the question, how should the church respond when such a shift takes place? When it is no longer against the law and is as prevalent as cigarettes and alcohol, what does the church say when Joe Parishioner smokes a bowl in the church parking-lot before each service? I think the answer lies [again] in Ephesians 5:18. Although alcohol is the direct focal point of the verse, [I believe] the principle still stands for any controlled substance. When you come under the influence of said substance and are essential “drunken” you have partaken unto excess. I’ve never smoked marijuana, and do not intend to, but by observation and interaction with people who have, I’m just not sure that you can take a hit of marijuana and not be “under the influence.” Therefore, I believe that it will still be an issue of sinful excess to partake.

The immediate rebuttal or followup question will be, “Is it then sinful to use a controlled substance for medicinal use if it brings you under it’s influence?” I think that this too has a Biblical answer.

Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto those that be of heavy hearts. Let him drink, and forget his poverty, and remember his misery no more.

– Proverbs 31:6-7




On Pat Robertson’s position


Washington Post