September 1981

?You Know What?

Robert F. Turner


What do you think about smoking leaders in the church? (By all means, smoke and roast them. It will toughen them for their work.) If someone objects to supporting preachers or elders who smoke, should they be with drawn from? For objecting, I suppose. The questions are a bit vague. E.S.


Of course, I'm kidding a bit about "roasting" the smokers — for I really do not believe that will assist them in breaking this habit. But (left-handedly) I'm also trying to remind our readers that those in public positions are often subjected to double standards — and "roasting."

I do not smoke. I think it is an undesirable, health injuring habit; and one by which a person gives up self-mastery, being brought under the power of tobacco. (1 Cor. 6:12) These observations are valid, any time, any place. But in our day there is an additional onus — the censure of a big segment of the public. It seems to me (and I'm a fairly mild objector) that the church leader who smokes is under a great handicap — his influence for good is diminished — and in some places would be practically nil. I have no knowledge of what is back of this question, and the nature of the objection may have caused some problem, but obviously "smoking" has not been a good thing, for leader or objector.

When I am asked, "Should we withdraw from a brother for this or that" it seems some expect a list of sins that justify withdrawal, and a list of sins that do not warrant withdrawal. I know of neither list. It seems to me any sin could be persisted in, advocated, made such an issue that to fail to discipline would mean to condone. Our fellowship with God depends upon our pressing toward the mark He has set — striving to do better — confessing sins and asking His forgiveness, etc. Our fellowship with one another is a sharing relationship of kindred spirits — of people who are striving to maintain fellowship with God. There is no place for a "we've got it made" or "this is good enough" spirit. There is certainly no place for approval of any sin.

It is conceivable that a cantankerous fellow could raise such a fuss about some brother's habit that the objector would have to be disciplined but this would not justify the sin to which he objected. And the sin to which he objected does not justify a carnal and sinful effort to stop it. Brethren, where did we get the idea that if we have the truth on some point at issue, we can break every other law in God's book in our effort to fight that error? It is just as sinful to slander and lie about some sinner, as about a righteous man.

On the other hand, if an objector to our sin is cast out, or silenced by carnal means, our sin is still sin and will condemn us. Diotrephes was not a righteous man after expelling those who would follow John (3 Jn. 10). Smashing the clock does not change the time of day; and ignoring the barometer will not stop the storm. Paul asked the question we all must answer. "Am I therefore become your enemy because I tell you the truth?" (Gal. 4.)