Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
May 13, 1954

Smoking And The Spanish Speaking Field

Mack Kercheville. El Paso. Texas

I have never preached a sermon nor written an article on smoking. Some of the most lovable and devout Christians I know smoke. But there are some facts about the use of tobacco in relation to the Mexican field all of us should know.

Most Spanish speaking people I know, even the smokers, consider smoking a VICE. Protestants among them in general consider smoking un-Christian. This feeling is so universal that, though I have never preached against smoking in my eleven years in El Paso, I don't know a single member of the Mexican congregation here who considers himself in duty who smokes. This same custom prevails with one or two exceptions, in all Spanish speaking churches of Christ.

What does this have to do with the mission field? It becomes quite a problem when smoking is so wide-spread among American brethren and opposition to it is so complete in the Spanish speaking field. Smoking American brethren sometimes scandalize their Mexican brethren when they visit in Mexico by lighting up in front of the place of worship. The Protestant people in general down there don't think smokers are fit to straighten them out on ANYTHING. It seems that this attitude is widespread among all Spanish speaking people (it is probably more widespread in the U. S. than some of us are willing to admit). I introduced a brother from South America to a man I considered a very fine elder of one of the Lord's churches. The elder had a cigar in his mouth. After we left him the South American brother said quite dogmatically, "That man is not qualified to be an elder. He isn't even a Christian." I have heard of another Spanish speaking field, not in Mexico or the U. S., where considerable trouble was raised because some American brethren there insisted on smoking, and the Spanish brethren couldn't tolerate it. According to the report I received a missionary there was called home because he sided with the Spanish brethren on the issue.

Now I have been trying to educate my Mexican brethren to be a little more tolerant. I have reminded them that they have some habits just as bad as smoking. I have shown them in the Bible that the strong "ought to bear the infirmities of the weak." When they find a brother too weak to stop smoking they shouldn't "excommunicate" him, rather they should help him in the Christian spirit to overcome his bad habits. By all means their opposition to tobacco should be based, not on personal prejudice, but on scriptural principles. The stronger, more mature Christians are always willing to make considerable sacrifice to try to get along with the weaker brethren. I have applied this principle to Mexican brethren to get them to be a little more tolerant of their smoking brethren. I have used the same principle to try to get some smoking brethren to quit. I have had considerably more success with the Mexican brethren than the American brethren. I don't know exactly what this means, but everyone knows the howl that goes up when someone tries to take a baby's pacifier away from him.

I'm not guessing about this, brethren. I know our efforts to evangelize the Spanish speaking people (and probably many others) would be MUCH easier if we were definitely on record in both teaching and practice against smoking. People have closed their minds and refused to hear the truth because we have smokers in the church. New and weak Christians are being discouraged right at the time they need all the encouragement they can get by our use of tobacco. I realize there is a lot of difference of opinion about the validity of some of the arguments made against tobacco. Although I wouldn't think of using it myself, I wouldn't refuse to baptize a man because he smoked. I wouldn't refuse to fellowship a smoker. I don't think it is that big an issue. But at the same time I am fully convinced that my smoking brethren are endangering the salvation of some souls. "But when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ. Wherefore, if meat (or tobacco, M.K.) make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend." (1 Cor. 8 :12-13)

"Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me." (Matt. 16:24)