As the context in which we do ministry gets exponentially more complex, the foundational truths that we have based many arguments on are becoming less and less helpful. For me, growing up in a suburban context with majority culture being mostly "Judeo-Christian," the youth workers in my world helped us navigate theology and morality with a very light reading of Romans 13.
"Obey the laws of the land."
Is it ok to drink? Is it ok to use drugs? How fast can I drive? Can I shoplift? Fill in the blank. For a teenager who wanted maximum freedom and wanted to experiment with any and everything dangerous, this theological foundation sort of worked. It, at its very least, provided a theological foundation for right and wrong.
When something wasn't explicitly affirmed or rejected in scripture, we could use the laws of the land as a guide.
But as our culture changes and as the laws of the land are becoming less concerned with individual morality, I am finding that many of the young people I work with have little to no moral foundation in which to make their decisions.
Pot is legal, I am supposed to obey the laws of the land, therefore it is ok to smoke pot.
And based on the way church has been done, there is little to no argument to contradict this line of thinking. If the laws of the land are our guide, then we are hosed.
With the legalization of marijuana becoming more and more of a reality in state after state, we need to help our students, and maybe even our churches find ways to develop a theology and morality that is based a little less on our Judeo-Christian roots, and one that is rooted in scripture, informed by the Holy Spirit.
1 Corinthians 10:23 is a great place to start. ALL THINGS ARE PERMISSIBLE!! How free is that! Instead of starting the conversation with what is off limits, lets start with the idea that maybe everything is in bounds. As young people we always set the question up as, "How far is too far?" "How much can I get away with?" But these are legal questions, transactional questions, not questions you would ever ask in relationship.
We know this to be the case when it comes to our sexuality. If I tried to pull this stunt with my wife, I would get crushed! "Honey, I love you and long to be intimate with you, but I would like to expand our sexual expression and bringing in a prostitute or at the very least, be inspired by some porn." You know, as well as I, that I would be in the dog house. And more likely k would sent packing.
We all know intuitively that there is no place for prostitution or pornography in a healthy, godly, and intimate marriage. In this intimate relationship, the laws of the land argument holds no water. Yes it is permissible. But it is the second half of that verse that must come into play. Not all things are beneficial.
Just because something is legal doesn't mean that it is appropriate or beneficial. This is especially true for people who are developing intimate relationships with one another and with Jesus. It is a pretty tough sell that prostitution and pornography are beneficial. Though legal, they crush intimacy.
This is the same type of argument that must come into play when we look at other topics that are legal, but not quite beneficial. Marijuana is a perfect example. Getting high is now legal. Great! But is getting high beneficial? How does getting high, coping from hard things, escaping reality impact our humanity and the intimacy that the one who created us longs to have with us?
Ephesians 5:18 gets thrown around a lot when it comes to drinking. Drinking is ok, but as long as you don't get drunk. But we miss the second half of that scripture too. We all are broken, uncomfortable, anxious, and we all are looking for ways to cope. In our context it is becoming increasingly acceptable to cope with pot. But coping short circuits our walk with Jesus and cuts off a chance for intimacy. Instead of coping, Jesus invites us to be filled with the Holy Spirit, to experience His comfort, His grace, His healing.
IN CONCLUSION: I know this may be a little top shelf for our students, and I am willing to concede that my theology and logic are fatally flawed. But the one thing I know to be the case, WE MUST BE CAREFUL WITH WHAT WE ROOT OUR THEOLOGY AND MORALITY IN. Because as culture changes, as science explains, we are quickly going to find out that the sun is not the center of the universe. Instead of being caught flat footed, lets do the hard work and help our communities lean into scripture that is illuminated by the Holy Spirit, combined with a humble and teachable heart. Things are only getting more complex, so lets study to show thyself approved, rightly handling the word of truth! (2 Tim 2:15)