The Rose, Mixed Blessings, and Life

RosesThere is probably no flower in America that gets more notoriety than the rose. Our music is full of songs about roses–“I Want Some Red Roses for a Blue Lady,” “The Yellow Rose of Texas,” “I Never Promised You a Rose Garden,” “Paper Roses,” etc. We send roses to people for virtually all special occasions and to convey and emphasize all kinds of messages.

Those of us who grow roses are keenly aware of another side of roses–they have thorns. I love to grow roses because they are so easy to grow. Roses are very forgiving to “klutzy” gardeners like me. They do fairly well even when you forget to fertilize them. Even when you forget to spray them until the bugs have eaten off all the leaves or the black spot has covered the foliage, they seem to rebound and carry on. The only thing I do not like about caring for roses is weeding them. Every time I reach to get the weeds out of my rose garden, one of those treacherous thorns catches me and penetrates even my work gloves to draw blood. There is a tendency to castigate the plant for stabbing you when all you were trying to do is help it.

Many things in life are like roses–children, for example. They are beautiful in many ways, and in many ways a joy to help them grow and nurture. When you try to weed out the things you know may strangle and hurt them, you frequently get wounded by the child. Marriage is another beautiful thing that can bring incredible joy, pleasure, happiness, and fulfillment into one’s life. But there is always some pain in marriage too. The Church is beautiful and a joy to work with, but it is almost impossible to get involved in helping the Church grow without getting hurt in some way–usually by the ones you are trying to help.

The skeptic might look at this circumstance as an illustration of God’s ineptness. If God exists, why should there be thorns among the roses? It is the thorns in marriage and child raising and the Church that cause many to abandon these institutions. Even in our limited ability to understand, I believe we can see the answer to this question which, on the surface, seems to be a flaw in the design. The rose is not only a thing of beauty, but it is also an excellent source of vitamin C. One of the frustrations of growing roses is the fact that a variety of animals and birds like to eat the flowers. It is only the thorns that protect the plant from predation that would destroy it.

In the same way, our dealings with one another have to be conducted so that each person has a certain amount of protection. When I hear a parent bemoaning the independent streak in their teenager, I sometimes ask them if they really want a child who is dependent on them for life. When someone is complaining about their spouse having a different viewpoint on things, I wonder if perhaps their spouse may be right at least part of the time. Sometimes a different perspective prevents us from making foolish mistakes. When I see struggles in the Church over whether my choice of an action or activity is best for another person, I have to ask whether I want the responsibility of always having to have the right answer for every situation.

The writer of Hebrews said, “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” (Hebrews 12:11). Anything really worthwhile takes effort and demands a price. Do not let the thorns of life keep you from the real beauty.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Legalizing Marijuana and Being a Convicted Christian

Marijuana

As of November 11, 2016, the number of states in the US that have legalized medical marijuana is 28. The Gallup poll tells us that 60% of all Americans approve the legalizing of marijuana. Celebrities like Willie Nelson and Snoop Dog now have their own marijuana lines. Tech companies like Microsoft have developed software for cannabis growers. In Colorado, nearly half of all marijuana sales are for THC-infused items. Pot shops sell ice cream laced with THC as well as cannabis-infused breath spray, energy shots, and bacon brittle. There are now marijuana massage oils, body lotions, and lip balms.

There are some reasons why one might support making marijuana legal. Criminalizing the use and sale of drugs has produced the violent drug cartels and has filled prisons with people who were not in power positions with the cartels. Legalizing marijuana allows the states to tax it. In Colorado, the income to the state has generated 2.4 billion dollars in economic activity and has created 18,000 full-time jobs. Promoters of marijuana now point to scientific data showing that marijuana is less dangerous to the individual than alcohol or tobacco. From a political and economic standpoint, it may seem that the legalization of marijuana is a good thing.

From a purely political standpoint, however, there are some good reasons to oppose the legalization of marijuana. In Washington State, the number of drivers involved in fatal car crashes who tested positive for THC rose by 48% between 2013 and 2014 when legalized marijuana hit the market. Also in Washington, the number of DUI arrests during the first six months after the legalization of marijuana nearly doubled. The number of patients hospitalized in Colorado for accidentally ingested marijuana rose from 809 patients per 100,000 to 2,413 after marijuana was legalized, with a large percentage of the victims being children. The use of marijuana by Americans has more than doubled in the last 12 years to 8.4 million people. The long-term effect of marijuana use is just beginning to be studied, but the adolescent use of marijuana has been shown to cause significant losses of IQ points and an increased risk of psychotic illness. In my hippie days, LSD was said to be harmless by its proponents, but we now know that certainly was not true. It is undoubtedly not true for marijuana.

You may have noticed that the title of this article includes the term “convicted Christian.” First Corinthians 3:16-17 tells us that our bodies are “God’s temple” and that the Spirit of God lives in us. “If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him: for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple.” A little later in chapter 6:15-20 Paul goes on to repeat the concept that our bodies are members of Christ himself and raises the issue regarding uniting with a prostitute. He concludes the discussion by saying “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.” In 1 Thessalonians 5:22 Paul encourages Christians to “abstain from every appearance of evil.” The question becomes, “What is our first priority?” Is it serving God or finding pleasure while trying to avoid getting in so deep that we lose our souls.

Saying that marijuana is less dangerous to the human body than alcohol or nicotine is an incredibly poor argument to justify using marijuana. Just as Christians should oppose the use of marijuana, we should oppose the use of alcohol as a social drug. Do we really mean what we say when we talk about “dying to sin” in the language of Romans 6? It is important to understand that what we are addressing in this discussion is the use of marijuana as a recreational drug. Are there medical uses of marijuana that can make it a positive tool of medical science? The answer is yes. That answer is also true of alcohol. In 1 Timothy 5:23 Paul tells Timothy to “take a little wine for your stomach’s sake.” Paul certainly wasn’t telling Timothy to get drunk. The use of alcohol in the time of Paul to fight contaminated water and infection was not the same as an alcoholic drink used to take the drinker to non-reality. Marijuana may have some great uses in treating cancer, pain, and any number of ailments. To be used medically, for the most part, the marijuana would not be smoked. The medical use of anything God has given us is certainly not at odds with the teaching of the Bible. There are may be good uses for marijuana, but there are also destructive uses. Data from The Week, November 25, 2016, page 11.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Gay Community Hurt by Media’s Downplay of CDC Report


Atheists and skeptics have accused the Bible and Christians in general of being homophobic. This accusation is inaccurate and actually the opposite of what the Bible teaches. Jesus and the Apostles taught very clearly that Christians are to take care of everyone, and no passage says to avoid taking care of the homosexual. We are to love our enemy, do good to those who are opposed to us, and never return evil for evil. (See Matthew 5-7.) By the same token, Christians are obligated to oppose all forces that bring evil, pain, and suffering to others.

Last September the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released data on the spread of HIV and AIDS in the United States. The report made it very clear that homosexuality is a destructive lifestyle, but that material was largely ignored by the media. Here are some facts from the CDC:
1) Gay men are 2% of the population, 55% of all HIV cases, and 67% of all new cases of HIV.
2) Gay and bisexual men ages 13 to 24 accounted for 92% of the new HIV cases and 27% of new diagnoses among all gay and bisexual men.
3) Gay and bisexual men accounted for 83% (29,418) of the new HIV diagnoses among males aged 13 or older and 67% of the total estimated new cases in the United States.
4) Gay and bisexual men accounted for 54% (11,277) of the cases of people diagnosed with AIDS.
5) One in six gay and bisexual men will be diagnosed with HIV in their lifetime.

The Bible clearly teaches that God’s plan was for men and women to have sexual relationships in the context of marriage to members of the opposite sex. Christians need to encourage people not to live destructive lifestyles. We are not “alcoholifobic” because we oppose the use of alcohol as a social drug. We are not “abusophobic” because we oppose any form of abuse. We want people to live in a way that keeps them healthy, and we will do what we can to urge people to make good choices. But if they make bad choices we will still love them, encourage them, and try to help them become free of destructive lifestyles. Homosexuality is a destructive lifestyle, and we will work towards stopping the spread of diseases which homosexual acts tend to spread. We will also work to help those who are victimized by their destructive lifestyle choices.
Data from http://cdc.gov/hiv/pdf/group/msm/cdc-hiv-msm.pdf
–John N. Clayton © 2017

The Drug Alcohol–Worse than Previously Believed

Christians are told to take care of their bodies because they are the temple (dwelling place) of the Holy Spirit and we should not defile that temple. (1 Corinthians 3:16-17) We are also told to stay away from “all appearance of evil.” (1 Thessalonians 5:22) I am always amazed when I hear people who claim to be Christians trying to justify the use of alcohol when there is so much data to show how evil and destructive it is. A recent report from The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tells us that “alcohol is the second most deadly drug in the United States, behind only tobacco.” Between 2002 and 2014 alcohol deaths increased by 37% in the United States. Alcohol now accounts for more fatalities than overdoses from prescription painkillers and heroin combined. The Center also reports that alcohol is a direct cause of seven forms of cancer. Most people are not even aware that alcohol use contributes to cancer, but the data is very clear. Data from The Week, December 23/30 2016, page 27.
–John N. Clayton © 2017