Rules, Sin, and Smoking

I love rules. I REALLY really do. It’s been one of the strangest experiences of my life, becoming an adult and learning that a lot of rules are context sensitive.

  • Lying is wrong. But being brutally truthful can be just as harmful at times.
  • Avoiding work is bad, and lazy. But taking a break to ensure your sanity is important.
  • We’re supposed to help others. But helping someone who doesn’t want help will only hurt them. Also enabling someone in a bad pattern will also hurt them.
  • Being in love is a beautiful thing. But the emotion of love isn’t enough to carry us through; it’s more than that.

When I was growing up, I lived by a very simple code: follow all of the rules. Do what those in authority tell me. Avoiding hurting others at any cost.

Now, things are more complicated. My wife has led some discussions about Boundaries, and we’ve been studying Luke for Everyone. I’ve slowly started to realize what is more important than rules: Love and Relationships.

That may sound cliche, but here’s what’s been occupying my mind lately.

Smoking

My wife smokes cigarettes on occasion, and I’ve been known to try a cigar occasionally. But lately, I’ve been investing more time (and a little money) in smoking pipes. It’s officially become a new hobby.

I have a lot of conflicting feelings about this. The old me, the Rules me, says that smoking is unhealthy, it could lead to addiction, and it ‘s a bad example to others, especially in the context of a Christian witness.

But the other me is sitting on the couch, and Lauren gets up to go sit outside and smoke; and I’m left with a decision: Join her outside and participate with her? Or sit inside and console myself with the fact that I’m “doing what’s right”?

Other me is also sitting with my friend who smokes. He’s going through a rough time, burning through a pack of cigs. I could join him, share a moment, and maybe even get him to open up, and feel better. But I can’t do that if I’m playing the “Good Christian Card”.

The same conflict applies to alcohol, drugs, and skydiving. Where do I draw the line between a “safe” choice, and the one that allows me to be with people, and engage with them. Some people won’t even talk to me if I can’t speak their language. Strangely, for me, Sports has always been a big barrier. I just don’t care at all about sports teams and win/lose records.

Should I though? If I want to make friends at the office, and make connections, it would be helpful for me to take an interest. Is it right for me to just cut off everyone who cares about sports?

Paul said in 1 Corinthians 9:

17 You see, my story is different. I didn’t volunteer for this. Had I volunteered to preach the good news, then I would deserve a wage, a reward,or something. But I didn’t choose this. God chose me and entrusted me with this mission. 18 You’re looking for the catch.
I know you’re wondering,
“What reward is he talking about?” My reward, besides being with you and knowing you, is sharing the good news of the Anointed One with you free and clear. That means I don’t insist on all my rights for support in the good news;
19 that also means that I am free of obligations to all people.
And, even though no one(except Jesus) owns me, I have become a slave by my own free will to everyone in hopes that I would gather more believers.
20 When around Jews, I emphasize my Jewishness in order to win them over. When around those who live strictly under the law, I live by its regulations—even though I have a different perspective on the law now—in order to win them over.
21 In the same way, I’ve made a life outside the law to gather those who live outside the law (although I personally abide by and live under the Anointed One’s law). 22 I’ve been broken, lost, depressed, oppressed, and weak that I might find favor andgain the weak. I’m flexible, adaptable, and able to do and be whatever is needed for all kinds of people so that in the end I can use every means at my disposal to offer them salvation.
23 I do it all for the gospel and for the hopethat I may participate with everyone who is blessed by the proclamation of the good news.

Wow. That’s incredible to me. “I have made a life outside the law to gather those who live outside the law (although I personally abide and live under the Anointed One’s law)”. There’s that choice again. I can’t just shut myself in my own little world, and my own interests. But I must also hold myself to a special standard; one that hinges on my relationship and love for God.

Among Christian circles, it’s common to break bread, and share a meal with someone. The act of participation creates a connection, a temporary bond; and it allows you to express support and love.

In my experience, smoking a pipe and talking with friends can have the same positive effect; allowing me to share with and engage in people whom I might not otherwise reach.

For me, its all come down to Love, which is a nebulous and constantly changing thing. For my friend going through a rough time, the loving thing to do is to light up and hangout with him, showing my support by sharing a moment with him.

When this hobby stops becoming a way for me to love others, and starts becoming a way for me to escape or enable myself in a bad pattern, that’s when it will be time to stop. Until that happens though, I’ll admit that I’ve been enjoying it immensely. It’s a very meditative experience, and the little bits of cleaning and maintenance keep my hands busy.

It’s not a hobby I can recommend to anyone else, but for me, it’s been a positive addition to my life, and encourages me to re-evaluate my choices, ensuring that I’m forming myself into someone who cares about others, and is a positive influence on my friends and family.