RE:QUESTA space for resources to help RE teachers and their students explore the Christian faith
Lat Blaylock, Editor, RE Today
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Is the Bible for or against drug use?
Although there are no references to drugs (other than alcohol), the Bible gives important lifestyle guidelines. Christians believe that God asks us to live a life that is pleasing to him. St Paul tells Christians to leave behind their old habits and ways and live a new life following God’s laws:
'You were taught with regard to your former way of life to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires.' (Ephesians 4: 22).
There are two general principles that help Christians decide whether they should use or agree with the use of drugs: caring for themselves and caring for others. Christians should ask two questions:
- How would a drug affect our bodies?
- Will it affect our relationship with God?
Christians are encouraged to be filled with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18). If God is to be in control of a Christian's thoughts, is this consistent with using any drug which affects the mind? Drugs affect the mind in different ways - slowing it down, speeding it up or distorting it. But the Bible says it is important to be clear-minded and self-controlled (1 Peter 4:7). The Bible describes our bodies as the ' temple of the Holy Spirit' (1 Corinthians 3: 16-17). In other words, God chooses to live inside people. This means that, as a way of honouring God, Christians need to take care of their health, and avoid actions that can cause damage, such as substance abuse, binge drinking and smoking.
Christian teaching is also clear about the important role of personal example. The Bible emphasises the need to avoid actions that may cause others to 'stumble' or 'fall' even if we might be alright ourselves (1 Corinthians 8:13). So even though Christians believe they are free from binding laws on the matter of (for example) what they should eat or drink, they would be better off abstaining (going without) than having their behaviour hurt a fellow believer.
An example of this in practice is found in the Salvation Army. They have strict rules around alcohol consumption, not because alcohol is necessarily wrong but because they share their lives with many people who are struggling to control their drinking. It would therefore be more loving for them to stand with those who need their help than to indulge in drinking themselves. Christians in the Methodist Church formulated a statement that summarises many Christians' attitudes to drugs, alcohol, and tobacco:
'The Christian's faith teaches him to use all things, including his money, responsibly. He seeks to meet problems and stresses by following Christ's teaching of living by His power. To Christ he offers the undiminished vigour of his body and mind. He loves his neighbour and therefore examines the probable effect of his behaviour, his habits and his example upon his neighbour. He accepts his part in the responsibility of the Church in the way of education and rehabilitation.'