Posted by: lepages | September 12, 2010

Moral dilemmas!

These are notes from my preach of last week – part of a series staggered over a 6 week period looking at moral dilemmas which are faced in our society today. You can have a listen to the preach from the church website here, or download to listen to later. You could even see how what I said compared with my notes!

Moral Dilemmas 05/09/10
Drugs, alcohol, smoking

Introduction
I have under here, a brand new Toshiba laptop – 17.3” screen, 4GB RAM, 500GB HD, Windows 7 Premium – it’d cost you over £500 along Rope Walk today – happy to let you have it today for £100 (truth is, I picked it up from a guy on Midland Road yesterday who had them going for £50)

(Actually, I haven’t – this is all a ruse – but what would you do faced with such a ‘bargain’?)

You’re at work, and an attractive girl, or a hunky guy, who knows you’re married or got a long term partner says, ‘D’you fancy popping out for a bite of lunch? Nothing more.’
What do you do?

Your business is going under. You could cut some corners in disposing of some toxic waste and save enough to keep going another few months….. what do you do?

You’re out with some mates and they offer you a spliff, or some tablets… ‘Go on! They won’t hurt anyone and they’ll really give you a buzz, chill you out!’ Do you take them?

‘What a night on the town! Drank too much…. my head hurts! Oh… and I slept with that guy too….’ A few weeks later you realise you’ve missed your period…. what do you do? ‘I’ve got important exams next year.’

We start a new series today, entitled ‘Moral Dilemmas’

Its going to be scattered through September and into early October, as we fit in other things including our ‘Come to Church Sunday’ next week and our day away at Renhold the week after – there will not be church here that Sunday – so if you would like to come, let us know so we can make sure every one gets there!

Over the weeks we are going to look at Moral Dilemmas which affect us today – things like is it okay to smoke, to take ‘recreational drugs’, to drink alcohol? What about world issues such as ecology, the economy, third world debt and poverty? What about our sexuality? Sex before marriage? Outside of marriage? Inside of marriage? What about homosexuality? And then what about matters of life and death? Abortion? Euthanasia? Assisted suicide?

One of the difficulties we face is that many of these issues do not appear in scripture. You don’t read of smoking, or of drugs in scripture. You don’t find the words ecology and economy in scripture, or words like abortion or euthanasia, so how are we to respond to these moral dilemmas which face us in our society today?
How are we to respond to them personally as we face them in our own lives from day to day?

How are we to respond to them on a larger scale as they affect our world and our society and our community?
The Christian faith is not a list of rules and regulations which we must obey to earn God’s favour – its about a living relationship and friendship with the Creator God who made this world and us in his image and who entrusted this world to our care.

The Islamic faith is different. It is a list of rules and regulations. Its about doing what you have to. Being obedient to the requirements of the written law in the Qur’an and the Hadith. Islamic law says that alcohol is forbidden – so you rarely find a Muslim with alcohol problems – but the Islamic law, as far as I’m aware says nothing about nicotine, or indeed other drugs – and so many Muslim men smoke, and whilst there is little problem with drunken youths as a result of alcohol, there is a huge problem with drug addiction to ‘recreational drugs’.

So how are we to approach these ‘Moral Dilemmas’?

What does scripture have to say to us?
How can it guide us in responding to the questions which may face us?

Is it okay to drink?
Is it okay to smoke?
Surely its okay to take ‘recreational drugs’ if its not affecting anyone else!?

Turn with me if you would to 1 Corinthians 3:16,17

READ 1 Corinthians 3:16,17

Here the word ‘you’ is plural – it’s speaking to the body of God’s people, the church, but if you turn over the page to 1 Corinthians 6:19,20, the same language is used in the singular, speaking to the individual.

READ 1 Corinthians 6:19,20

As the body of God’s people we are precious because God lives amongst us as we gather, whether in a very large group of thousands as some of us were at Grapevine last weekend, a smaller group of 60-70 as here this morning, or an even smaller group as we gather in our cell groups during the week. Jesus says when 2 or 3 come together in my name he is with us, and he is here with us now. He walks amongst us.

But God is always present with us, as Christians, by his Holy Spirit.
When we become a Christian we receive the Holy Spirit into our lives and he makes his home there. So Paul says our bodies become a temple of the Holy Spirit.

Your body – a temple

Christians in the main do not view their buildings too highly – they are meeting places and its the gathering of God’s people that he inhabits, not the building – and yet, we care for our building where we come to worship – different people take responsibility to come in and clean it and prepare it for worship each week. If you were to go to one of the Mosques or Temples around our town, then in many you would be expected to remove your shoes before entering – you don’t want to take dirt into the Mosque or Temple. In some you would be expected to cover your head as a sign of submission to God. In others to wash your hands carefully.

When Paul wrote, the people he wrote to would have been familiar with customs of worship in temples, that you didn’t dishonour the gods by bringing anything contaminated into his presence when you came to worship.

And so he turns the tables round and says:-

“Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?”

When you go to worship at a temple you go and you come away, so you make yourself clean for that time. The Christian faith is not like that. Your body is a temple. God lives in you, he has made his home in you, so it should be clean all the time, so we need to think about how we keep it clean, how we make it a fit place for God to live.

WWJD

was an ‘in phrase’ a few years ago – ‘What Would Jesus Do?’

When we face moral dilemmas over social customs like alcohol, smoking and drugs perhaps our question shouldn’t be so much what would Jesus do, but would he be at home? Because as a Christian Jesus is permanently present in your life by his Spirit and he treats your body as his Temple, where he can be at home and where he can be worshipped.

So, if you care for a physical building, shouldn’t you care for your body?

So the Moral Dilemma as far as alcohol, drugs, smoking becomes not ‘well as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else it doesn’t matter’ but ‘will my actions as far as this is concerned bring damage to my body as the Temple of God?’

Pick up a packet of cigarettes and they have printed on them the answer to that question.

Drugs don’t have that written on them. But look at the statistics of people with mental health problems and see the number who have used cannabis and other drugs over time…

Take a walk around the community and observe the physical state of long term drug users.

And what about alcohol?
Well alcohol has been around for a long time – right back to the days of Noah at least!

Alcohol features in scripture and its not forbidden. In fact Paul in writing to Timothy advises:-

“Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses.” 1 Timothy 5:23

Many health gurus would say a little wine is good for your bodily health – but scripture does say ‘a little wine’.

I once went on an alcohol awareness training day. There was one lady who seemed completely stunned to be advised that her drinking a bottle of red most nights was a bit excessive – to look at the blotchy state of her skin I think her excessive consumption was evident to all. Walk around the streets and see the physical condition of local alcoholics.

As a Christian, your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. Paul says:-
“You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honour God with your body.” 1 Corinthians 6:19b,20

When you become a Christian you give your life to Christ. It is no longer your life to do with as you choose. He is Lord of your life and lives within you, so therefore you should not think ‘it won’t hurt anyone else’, but does it have the potential to hurt me and therefore my body as the temple of God?

As a Christian you are called now to something that is much broader than a list of commands as to what you should or shouldn’t do – you are called to a life where you honour God with your body – and this is much wider than narrow moral dilemmas such as should I smoke or not, is it okay to take drugs? Is it okay to drink alcohol? It affects how we care for our bodies, so as temples of the Holy Spirit we should care for our bodies by thinking about what we eat, what we drink, whether we exercise them and use the muscles that God has put in them.

Alcohol is statistically responsible for more hospital treatment than nicotine, and far more than illegal drugs. So, whilst Paul says to Timothy ‘take a little wine for your stomach’s sake’ he says to the church at Ephesus:-

“Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life.” Ephesians 5:18 NLT

And it does. Drinking to excess can ruin your health in the long term. Getting drunk, drinking too much can lead you into all sorts of problems in the short term. Take a walk through Bedford Town centre in the early hours of the morning on a Friday or Saturday night – go out with Street Angels – and you’ll see the effects – go up to the Casualty Dept at the hospital. Alcohol removes inhibitions and people will do things they might otherwise not have done – they get into fights, they sleep with someone.

One alcoholic said to me that it was alright for him to get drunk on beer because the Bible only said don’t get drunk on wine. Whenever we fail to care for our bodies properly we do not honour them and we do not honour Christ with our bodies. Paul is saying ‘Do not get drunk!!’ Full stop. It dishonours you and it dishonours Christ. Drunkenness affects your mental and physical faculties – so does getting high or getting spaced out on drugs, and can likewise lead us into areas we might not otherwise go.

So, we’re left with a moral dilemma – is it okay to smoke? To take drugs? To drink?
Weigh the answers for yourself.

And weigh the consequences too.

Your body – a balance

READ 1 Corinthians 8:1-13

I guess the problem addressed here is not one that most of us face in our culture. But maybe there are parallels for us to take as far as care for our bodies as the temples of the Holy Spirit are concerned.

For an alcoholic who is off drink, any alcohol can cause them to crash again – years ago one alcoholic who had been off the drink for some time decided to take communion in the lead up to Christmas – the result of that small intake of alcohol was a fall that meant hitting the bottle right through that Christmas period – hence our now using grape juice when we share in communion.

If someone battles with drug addiction, care needs to be taken in what you expose them to.

If someone struggles with care of their body through eating, care needs to be taken in how we act in their presence.

We may reach a decision on our moral dilemma as we read and reflect on scripture, but we need to be aware of the effect of that decision on others also.

“Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling-block to the weak.”

We need to ask God for wisdom by his Holy Spirit as we face moral dilemmas in all areas of our lives and at all times.

Your body – a support

We may make a judgement on a moral dilemma we face – the product may be that we decide its okay to drink, or its not okay.

But there is a moral dilemma then of how we respond to those who fail.

Do we condemn them for their behaviour?
Seek to have them removed our of our sight and mind?

Galatians 6:1,2 says this:-

“Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfil the law of Christ.”

So faced with someone who is not caring for their body as a temple of the Holy Spirit we are faced with another moral dilemma, whether through alcohol, nicotine, drugs, food and lifestyle what should we do?

Cast them out, welcome them in, exclude them, point their error out to them.

Probably the greatest challenge for most of us here this morning (though it will be for some of us) is not whether we drink/smoke/take drugs or not, but how we respond to those who do.

Conclusion
For some of us, we may carry issues about how we care for our bodies, it may be related to alcohol, or nicotine, or drugs – it may be related to something else. Jesus said ‘You shall know the truth and the truth will set you free’ We sometimes sing ‘It was for freedom that Christ has set us free, no longer to be subject to a yoke of slavery’ There may be some of us who need to enter into that freedom. If that’s you then don’t go away without having someone pray with you to see you set free in the name of Jesus. Come down to the front as we worship or see a member of the prayer team after the service.

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