Church Part 2: Believing the Right Things

I used to believe that smoking mattered. I used to believe that smokers couldn’t possibly be Christians and that a pack a day was as good as damnation.

Then I met Mikee Bridges.

Mikee was the vocalist of one of my favorite bands, Sometime Sunday. He had started another band, Tragedy Ann, as an outlet with a stronger evangelical focus. He created the TOM Music Festivals and opened a few Christian clubs in the Portland area. He’s now the director of Epic Ministries.

When I met him, he was taking a drag off of a cigarette.

I was 19 at the time, young and still naïve about the world beyond my sheltered and conservative upbringing. I had friends that smoked, but none of them were Christians. Here was Mikee: someone that I respected, someone who was active in ministry. He was smoking.

It was a culture shock.

I was raised to believe that things like smoking and drinking were grievous sins. Yet this man, who professed the same Christ, worshiped the same God, believed in the same gospel, was not only smoking – but seemingly saw nothing wrong with his actions.

More than a culture shock – it was weird.

Mikee understood something that I had yet to comprehend. The condition of a man’s heart is more important than the contents of his pockets. The soul is of greater worth than the lungs. The message of salvation is more important than a pack of Marlboros.

That encounter didn’t revolutionize all my ways of thinking, but it did spark a different view of those who smoke. God loved them just as much as He loved me. Smokers were just as capable of sharing Jesus as non-smokers.

It’s not that my belief that smoking was bad was the wrong thing to think. It just wasn’t the right thing.

We could talk about how a smoking habit is a waste of money and that the dollars spent on smokes could be better used to help feed and care for the poor. The same could be said of Christians who buy brand name clothing instead of thrift shop fashion. But in many churches, smoking is seen as a greater evil than buying trendy clothes.

We could talk about how smoking is unhealthy and pollutes the body. The same could be said about eating fast food two or three nights a week. Yet many churches see no wrong in a fast food diet.

Sure, Christians shouldn’t smoke. But I don’t think that statement is exclusive to the religious community. It is a universal truth that smoking is unhealthy (as is binge drinking or fast food indulgence). Your religious beliefs do not change that fact.

It’s not wrong to think that smoking is bad, but in the light of eternity there are bigger issues.

What is the greatest commandment? To breathe deeply with all of you lungs? To break the habit before you approach God?

Jesus told us that all of the law is built upon two commands: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind; and love your neighbor as yourself. The book of Romans says that loving your neighbor is the sum of all of the commandments.

If all you do is love God and love your neighbor, you are following God’s law.

Says nothing of smoking.

It’s not that my beliefs were wrong. I just didn’t believe the right things.

Too many Christians believe they’re always supposed to vote for Republicans, even when the Republican candidate’s beliefs contradict the teachings of Jesus.

Too many Christians believe that homosexuality is threatening the sanctity of marriage, yet they never stop to worry about the divorce rate within the church.

Too many Christians rally against abortion, but do nothing to help the abused and neglected children in their community.

Too many Christians complain about the decline of American values while they don’t truly understand Biblical values.

Too many Christians preach the unconditional love of God and live as if there are prerequisites required to earn that love.

Too many Christians fret over the details and forget the big picture of love, hope, and reconciliation.

What if we believed in things that truly mattered? What if we believed that the cost to provide clean drinking water to every person on earth was equal to the amount of money Americans spent on ice cream in a single year? What if we believed that 80% of the world’s population lives in poverty? What if we believed that the suicide rate in America is increasing every year – most suffering from depression, addiction, or mental health issues? What if we believed that 60% of American teenagers acknowledge drugs being sold or used on their school campus? What if we believed 25% of high school kids will not graduate on time? What if we believed that we have the power to make a difference in this world?

Would it change the way we viewed those that many churches treat as outsiders?

Would the church be a more welcoming place to those who are far from God?

What if we believed that God’s love was relentless? What if I believe that He loves smokers with the same reckless abandon that He gives to me?

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