Abstinence, Indulgence & Faith

I often talk with young believers who seem to be bothered by their lack of experience with some pretty unhealthy behaviors. Maybe they are not having sex before marriage or they are abstaining from drugs and a friend asks them how they can be so sure it is bad if they have never even tried it. This question and others like it have really unsettled some young believers that I know. They are stumped by it and not sure if they can answer the question. The reasoning implies that abstinence is an absence of an experience rather than an experience in itself. Sex might be the best example to make clear what I mean. If someone has decided not to have sex until marriage many might say they don't know what they are missing or ask them how they might be sure they are with the right person if they ever do get engaged to marry. These questions may no doubt disturb the person but we must acknowledge that having held onto their virginity is a monumental accomplishment and experience in itself. Also the experience that they have prepared themselves for if they do get married will be much deeper and more sacred than any other adolescent loss of virginity. They might look right back at the one who questions their abstinence and ask 'How do you know waiting until marriage isn't better?.' The point here is that abstinence is much more than an absence of something and is itself an experience. 

While thinking about how young believers often wrestle with questions of abstinence and moderation I thought about one question in particular. One night I was on a panel of speakers invited to field random questions from a college campus ministry group. While there we were asked many questions but one of them stuck in my mind and came up again as I thought about such questions. The student raised his hand and when called on asked "Can I smoke weed and be a Christian?"
I am not one that has very strong legalistic feelings about such things and I really do think many  authentic Christians come down on different sides of this question. Rather than answering this question directly, I questioned the question itself which was helpful for me. What is the heart behind this question? In my response I told him that I think he is asking the wrong question and the wrong kind of question all together.

As a Christian we should not be looking for the dividing lines or asking what we might be able to get away with. Christianity is anything but a bare minimum posture. No question which asks what I can have or do and still be considered a Christian is itself a christian question. The question itself has already become unfaithful to the call of Christ. A Christian should be asking what can I do without for the sake of Jesus? How can I lay my life down for the sake of His Kingdom? The Christian surrenders all things for the sake of the Christ and His Kingdom. Our faith is not something we hold among other things in our lives that we hold. It is not an identity among other identities but an identity that negates all others. This is why Paul would write "In Christ there is no Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female." We cannot hold onto anything. 

The call is surrender and in surrender there is freedom. How can you know if you don't try? (-;


  1. Excellent entry Jon. I agree with you about the motive behind our questions. As a former weed smoker and a Christian, I struggled for about 2 years with how it affects my walk. I came to the conclusion that for ME, it was something that I felt called to surrender....and in exchange the freedom that I gained was MUCH GREATER than the "feeling of freedom/place of escape" that the weed gave me in the first place.

    Now as I encounter that same question from many people Christian and non; I approach it as a desire quesition vs. a right or wrong question. There was a time where, I desired the weed more than Christ, I desired it's affects more than Christ; and in my surrender to the weed my outcome was always a short-lived freedom. I felt like a hampster on a wheel when it came to weed. I always got on the wheel and ran, because it was there.

    After much prayer and pursuit of Christ, honest communication and accountability with fellow believers when I stumbled, and removing myself from tempting situations I was free of the habit. In all honesty sometimes the thought to use weed as an escape does still appear, but the desire to please Christ is greater and I make a conscious decision to release that old thought pattern. Everyone's personal convictions vary, but as a Christian, I am learning everyone's core desire is to obey Christ....and whatever he calls us to surrender-We must surrender! Blessings brother, continue the work that you do!

  2. Thank you for writing this. Can't wait to share these thoughts with others who think I'm a little crazy for living the way I do. :) You're right, what I abstain from is an experience in itself and a valuable one at that.

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