Friday, May 02, 2008

Holy Smokes!

"Happy is the man that condemneth not himself in that which he alloweth." (Romans 14:22)

There may be a few raised eyebrows among our more impassioned brethren when I tell you that each Wednesday morning, from 8:30 to 10:00am, I gather with a small group of Christian men for hearty Bible study and a fine cigar. We call our group Holy Smokes. I can tell you that over the past couple of years we have witnessed the Lord do many wonderful things in our gatherings.

Now, before one is too quick to pronounce their disapproval, perhaps a fair reading of G. K. Chesterson's thoughts would be helpful.

"It is true that tobacco," he writes, "though not an intoxicant, is in some sense a drug: but so is tea. It is true that tobacco, taken out of season and reason, spoils your appetite: but so do sweets. It is true that it is a luxury, a mere keen and passing titillation or pungency: but so are peppers and salt and mustard and a hundred other blameless gifts. It is true that it ends in smoke: but so do all the worldly powers and pleasures. It is true that it falls into ashes: but so do we. There is nothing immoral about smoking a cigar. To regard smoking as immoral shows not merely a lack of clear thinking but a lack of clear standards. Lumping the wrong things together as evils blurs the real lines between right and wrong and leads to chaos. It also leads to legal and practical confusion." (The Power of the Expert, June 22, 1914).

In the fourteenth chapter of Romans, which I encourage you to read for yourself, the apostle Paul presents a compelling case for keeping a clear conscience in matters of faith and conduct; showing how easy it is for us to condemn one another for things which are in fact indifferent -- things like eating meat, or not; drinking wine, or not; worshipping on one day, rather than another, and so on.

Paul concludes with this wise and liberating counsel, "If your conscience is clear in the matters of choice that you decide, then be at peace as you do what you have decided to do; but don't impose your opinions upon others. And always act in love toward another, especially if they are of a different mind about these things."

While there are certainly clear guidelines in Scripture about some things -- such as adultery, stealing, lying, killing; to name but a few -- there yet are many things left in somewhat of a gray zone. It is a matter of personal conscience acting with faith toward God, and love toward others, that we are to make our choices regarding such things.

For this band of brothers, a puff on a fine cigar as we turn the pages of scripture is time well spent. Holy Smokes!

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