ina, our church’s head deaconess, accosted me in the hall one Sabbath morning.
“Come with me,” she said, tugging at my arm. “I want to show you something.”
I immediately put up a protest, reminding her that the worship service would start in 10 minutes, and I was responsible for ensuring that it ran smoothly.
Nina persisted, and I reluctantly followed her to a windowsill lined with potted plants at a deserted back corner of the sanctuary.
“Look at this,” she said, pointing to a leafy-green specimen. “What do you think? Is this marijuana?”
It was a good question. I had never inspected cannabis up close. But the long, thin leaves resembled the distinctive look of the cannabis plants I had seen in pictures.
“This plant wasn’t here when we cleaned the church on Friday,” Nina said. “What should we do?”
With the worship service almost upon us, there was little we could do. But the solution was obvious to both of us. “Let’s throw it away!” we exclaimed, almost in the same breath.
Securing the foliage with one hand, Nina grabbed the pot with the other and whisked the suspect plant out of the room. In the kitchen she packed it into a black garbage bag and shoved it deep into the trash can.
The worship service started a few minutes late (the plant was not responsible), and I mused to myself why someone would place marijuana in our church. I wondered whether an outside foe had left the plant to stir up trouble. Perhaps a young church member had wanted to play a prank. Or maybe the plant was completely harmless and we had overreacted.
But God is very clear in instructing us not only to avoid wrongdoing—in this case, possessing a marijuana plant—but also to avoid the mere appearance of wrongdoing, or possessing a plant that looks like marijuana.
Here’s a good example: We know that sexual immorality, impurity, and greed are wrong. But Paul took matters a step further by cautioning us not to create even the perception that we might be engaged in sexual immorality, impurity, or greed: “But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people” (Eph. 5:3).
Not even “a hint of sexual immorality” means refraining from repeating an off-color joke, making a seemingly clever double entendre, or engaging in a public display of affection best reserved for a married couple behind closed doors. Paul’s words also encompass how we dress. Clothing can create an atmosphere that allows the thoughts of those around us to drift heavenward, or elsewhere. Believe me, when a God-fearing man sees a woman wearing a low-cut blouse, his first thought is not how much she loves the Lord. (His second thought may be that he must ask God to forgive him for his first thought.)
We face a responsibility before God about how we influence other people’s thoughts and actions, whether for good or evil. For this reason Nina and I threw away the plant on Sabbath morning. We slammed the door shut on a hint that something might be wrong in the temple of God.
You and I can also slam the door shut. “Flee from sexual immorality,” Paul says. “All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies” (1 Cor. 6:18-20).
Do you have any marijuana plants, real or otherwise, tucked away in your temple? Let’s throw them away today!
Andrew McChesney is a journalist in Russia. This article was published January 24, 2013.