THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE IMMATERIAL
“If you are here to help me, you have come for the wrong reasons, but if you are here because your liberation is directly bound in mine, then come walk beside me and we can find hope together.” — Jesuit Volunteer Motto
A little girl rode shotgun as her father drove to the grocery store. Opening the glove compartment, she discovered a pack of Marlboro Lights.
“Whose are these?!” she screamed in disbelief and disgust.
Her father calmly looked at the cigarettes and then at this daughter. “They’re mine,” he said.
Her eyes rapidly grew wide, and she gasped, “You’re going to Hell!”
The man, startled, immediately pulled over the car. He had not taught her such things, and they didn’t attend church, so he was at a loss to the origin of this doctrine. He then turned to her and asked, “Who told you that?”
“Everyone knows it,” she responded with conviction.
As a scholar of the scriptures, he told her clearly, “Sweetheart, let me tell you something. People don’t go to Hell for smoking, or drinking or cursing. I can see only one reason in the scriptures that people go to Hell, and that’s for hating other people. That’s it.”
He calmly pulled the car back onto the road and proceeded to the grocery. His little girl had learned that our firmly-held beliefs about what makes someone good had come un-tethered from truth.
This same man told my friend she should start smoking not because the prospect of lung cancer is such a fantastic thing, but because smokers know how to hang out with each other and talk. Smoking opens the realm of the imperfect people who have stopped pretending. It allows for conversation because the religious vibe has successfully been annihilated.
Another friend put it this way: “When two people sit at a table and they each have a beer, a certain honesty shows up. Because it is difficult to maintain a shiny and self-righteousness veneer with a Miller Lite in your hand. Some of the best talks I’ve had about Jesus has been over a beer.”
Neither individual would advocate smoking or drinking just to do it. Both men see a cigar or a Camel or a Bud as a relational tool, and one that strips a false veneer, enabling honesty.
But in truth, to smoke or not to smoke is not the question. Nor is it whether to imbibe or not to imbibe. Rather, the question is “What makes us good? What is the conduct the Lord finds pleasing?”
We can easily see what people deem “good.” Almost everyone considers the lives and characters of Abraham Lincoln and Mother Teresa “good.” But we also consider those who “don’t drink or smoke” a little better than others. Why? Is peak physical health a moral virtue? If so, do we properly esteem those who don’t indulge in sweets?
No. Because we’ve concocted a moral cocktail, pouring from various bottles of religious, cultural and political traditions to fashion something palatable to our tastes.
But what suits God’s taste?
How do you determine what is good and bad?
Why do you do so?
How can you align your views more closely to the Lord’s?
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