Chuck Foreman – Teaching Pastor
“We are at the center of the conflict between Good & Evil in our world. This spiritual battle is over us. We must choose sides. When we choose God, our battle strategy is completely different than the other side.”
This week’s message, from Paul’s concluding words to the Church in Ephesus, has encouraged (or provoked 🙂) a lot of what I think is healthy discussion. I interjected some information regarding an upcoming ballot proposition here in AZ, Prop 205, which if passed will legalize recreational marijuana in our state. This spot in the message on Sunday was an application of Paul’s Belt of Truth analogy—Truth being the first indispensable piece of spiritual armor for every Christian. I believe this proposition is shrouded in false propaganda not truth. Truth protects us from Satan’s most common weapon against us, falsehood. Anytime lies and false information are used to promote an angle on any issue in our society, I feel obligated to expose what’s false and reveal what’s true. That’s what I tried to do on Sunday.
I also believe that this proposition is a moral issue, not a political issue like voting for a candidate for political office. Moral issues such as the rightness or legality of consuming a mind altering drug for recreational use should never have to be voted on. But that’s how we roll in America. If you get the right number of signatures on any proposition, it can make its way onto our ballot, thus giving it the appearance of being a political issue. In addition to this, the fact that it might soon be legal to grow, sell and be high on pot in AZ, makes this issue an integral part of how we apply the scriptural command to “not get drunk on wine” (or any other substance), which Paul addressed in Ephesians 5:18, part of last week’s message.
So here I find myself, a pastor to people and a community he dearly loves, a father with great concern for his own family, and someone with a scriptural commission to give myself wholly to diligently read, preach and teach the scriptures, paying attention to my own life as well, so that I will save both myself and my hearers (Check out 1 Timothy 4:13-16. This is the weight of responsibility under which I function daily. You probably don’t want my job.) What to do? So Sunday’s message is what I decided to do.
I’ve had no small amount of push back from a couple of different points of view. I welcome this dialogue and want you to know that I am ALWAYS accessible. I will listen to you and try with all my might to understand where you are coming from. (Even if I’m thinking: “Where in the world are you coming from?” 🙂) I’ve had objections from people who thought I was overlooking the medicinal benefits of marijuana because they weren’t listening and didn’t hear me clearly make that particular disclaimer. I’ve had objections from people who didn’t even hear my actual message themselves, but who objected that I would talk about a ballot proposition from the pulpit. Please at least listen to the message before you object to it. Then if you object, bring it on! I will love you even if I disagree with you—and even if you don’t love me for disagreeing with you.
One common thread in objections that have been raised directly to me is this: As a pastor, I should not use my public platform in church to ever talk about issues on the ballot upon which we, as citizens, have the opportunity to vote. Apparently a pastor is not supposed to give information that would influence how a church attender might vote, let alone actually come out and express a rational or scriptural angle on how we as Christians should view an issue which is churning around in public discussion in our society, especially one which has maneuvered its way onto our ballot. I’ve been trying to find where that law or rule is written which puts that kind of gag in a pastor’s mouth and haven’t uncovered it yet. (I’m not trying to be argumentative here. I’m really asking, where is it written?!)
Another perception regarding objections which have made their way to me in a round-a-bout way, is that it wasn’t so much that I clearly encouraged people to vote NO on Proposition 205, but that there was no opportunity for questions and discussion— that it was a one way message. If that explains the negative reaction of some, then I get that. We will do better in the future to provide opportunity for input when we deal with a controversial issue in church. And I want to assure you (or warn you) that we will.
Christians don’t put their heads in the sand while their society is burning to the ground around them and just keep playing church—at least not at fccphx. BUT, I/we will not be obnoxious, or judgmental, or intentionally divisive in how we deal with the issues facing us. Where the scriptures speak, we will speak their truth in love and when the time is right, but where they are silent, we will shut up! We will not blame the government for all of our problems; we will take responsibility for them and bring the wisdom and the healing balm of the Kingdom of God to bear on them all. We will look inwardly to ourselves and admit our faults and failures and lift each other up to do better. We will have the moral integrity to recognize that applying biblical teaching to a moral issue before we vote on it is essential. We will look beneath the surface of every side of an issue to determine its rationale. We will recognize dishonesty and resist the urge to be dishonest just to support our view. Whenever financial profit and the generation of revenue for public funding is the rationale for violating a clear, loving command of God for sobriety, then we must find another way to fund what needs to be funded in our society. Case in point here: We don’t stoop to greed for funding education or making a personal profit by violating God’s very clear desire for us to live ethically and in sobriety.
This is simply my call to all of us to think clearly and to reach down deep for humility in the way we respond to each other as we grapple with the difficult issues facing us. We do battle differently as the People of God. We recognize that our real enemy is not each other. We love each other. We pray for each other. And we keep finding ways to work together even when we disagree. Remember, our enemy wants to divide us, but Got wants to unite us. Right On?