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Cannabis (part i)

Last week saw media interest in cannabis following the UK government's decision to ‘reclassify’ it.  To explore how Christians might regard other drugs, we could begin by considering the process by which I conclude that moderate alcohol use is OK.

The Bible makes much mention of wine, beginning with Noah from whom the whole earth was peopled (Gen 9:19).  Primaeval stuff! and part of God's blessing: If you heed these ordinances … God … will bless … your grain and your wine and your oil (Dt 7:12-13).  As one commentary puts it “… in the Old Testament wine is a symbol of productivity and prosperity.”

What would Jesus do? Well, he was accused of being a glutton and a drunkard (Mt 11:18), so presumably at least a drinker.

We should note that wine is widespread in creation - sugar, yeast and thus alcohol occur naturally in every corner of the globe.  And it's good for our health!  Science confirms the beneficial properties (try implied by Paul's injunction to take a little wine for … your … frequent ailments (1 Tim 5:23).

I'm impressed, too, by its spiritual significance.  That mysterious character Melchizedek, after whom Jesus’ priesthood is modelled (Heb 5:6), brought out bread and wine (Gen 14:18).  Old Testament sacrifices included drink offerings - an aroma pleasing to the LORD (Num 15:7).  The first sign of the ‘new covenant’ was Jesus’ turning 700 litres of water into excellent wine (John 2:1-11) and he tells us to remember with wine that new relationship (1 Cor 11:25).

It seems that wine is for us to enjoy, but are there limits?  In the Genesis 9 incident, Noah got drunk, one of his sons took advantage, cursing resulted.  As the commentator notes, “Here wine is a symbol of human depravity” - excess and misuse of the intrinsically good has been with us a long time.  (And note recent concern about young UK women drinking on average five bottles of wine a week, and rising.)

What about the occasion?  Jesus declined drugged wine on the cross (eg Mt 27:34 / Mk 15:23), perhaps refusing to escape pain or reality, and in Matthew 11:18-19 he seems to indicate the validity of calling and choice.  We should also remember our own actions’ effect on others, summed up by Romans 14:21: it is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that makes your brother or sister stumble - likely the principle driving many thoughtful teetotallers.

So I conclude that there are boundaries to alcohol use but that fundamentally it is part of God's good creation. As the psalmist wrote: You cause grass to grow for the cattle, and plants for people to use, to bring forth food from the earth and wine to gladden the human heart, oil to make the face shine, and bread to strengthen the human heart (Ps 104:14-15).  Before the next eReflection, why not try to think through for yourself a Christian stance on tobacco and cannabis?

Yours in Him

Peter Nicholls

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