Have Our Kids’ Minds Gone to Pot?
When I was on my middle school track team, we trained at the high school across the street. By the time early morning practice was over, the high schoolers had gathered on the lawn outside their building to wait for the first bell. Passing by the older kids on my way back to the middle school felt a little intimidating. I remember this scene so vividly because en route from one school to the other meant walking passed the Aqua wing (each wing of the school was named after a color). And the Aqua wing was where all the druggies hung out.
As a naïve seventh grader, this was both terrifying and mystifying. At that time, 30+ years ago, drug-using high schoolers tended to fit the rebellious John Bender (The Breakfast Club) stereotype. It freaked me out just to see them. Simultaneously, I was completely intrigued. I wondered why in the world these kids would want to use drugs.
Around that time, Red Ribbon Week had recently begun its “Just Say No” drug prevention campaign, but I didn’t know anyone personally who would even think of using drugs. Until a college road trip to Mardi Gras I never even saw a joint or knew what it smelled like. Admittedly, my upbringing was fairly sheltered. But even if my experience was different than other Gen Xers, the mindset and exposure of today’s teenagers to drugs – pot in particular – has totally changed.
My own teenagers (middle school up to college) all know people, friends even, who smoke weed regularly. These are kids not identifiable according to stereotype; they represent every facet of the student body – athletes, cheerleaders, student council officers, band members, honors students, debaters, theater kids, skaters, nerds, etc. In other words, marijuana is prevalent among all types of students, from all socio-economic corners. I would argue, since the legalization of marijuana in several states, a vast majority of teens (users or not) increasingly perceive pot to be harmless; no worse than nicotine.
How then, as parents and youth leaders, do we help our kids to think Biblically about pot in a post-Christian culture?
First and foremost, to enter in to these conversations our teens need to know they can ask their questions, express their opinions, and even their curiosities without shame. Otherwise they may pretend to listen and agree with what we have to say, but they will keep hidden their views, their secret desires to try it, or maybe even the fact that they already have.
As parents, we must identify with them in their inquisitiveness, affirm their understanding about why marijuana might be considered harmless by their peers, and we must not broadly condemn pot-smokers. Most likely, a blanket statement will put your teen on the defensive, as it would be viewed as an attack on their friends and cause them not to feel safe to confide in you.
Additionally, for an honest conversation about drugs or anything else, we must not lead with “the law,” as in God’s commands (do’s and don’ts). All the warnings, the facts and statistics on drugs, are not enough. What our kids need is a gospel grid to filter all of life through. In other words, they need help learning how to apply the gospel to all things. They need to know the story of a God who came to rescue sinners, and they need to see themselves as a sinner in need of rescuing. If they don’t know their sin and need, they won’t know how amazing God’s grace really is. Knowing who Jesus is for them is what will lead to a greater desire for God and a lesser desire for the things of the world.
I start with the gospel because, for our kids to unwaveringly say no to drugs – in thought, word, and action – we must deal at the heart level, where affections and desires lie. If our kids’ desire is for God and the things of God, they will want to worship and obey him, not out of duty but out of love. Likewise, when something else rules their hearts, it too will be evident in the way they think and act.
Who or what they worship (the one true God or ruling false gods) will inform how our kids think and what they do. Again, they will either want to do what is pleasing to the Lord, or they will act according to whatever means more, which at any given moment – even for the believer – can be a false god. Therefore, our kids need to also know they can come to us in their sin; more importantly, they need to know that they can go to God in their sin. In him, there is always grace and forgiveness. May we reflect that to our children in the way we handle their sin.
When a gospel-centered foundation has been established, we can then bring in God’s law and our country’s law. God’s word tells us our body is a temple to be used for His glory (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). So now we talk to our kids about how drugs alter our minds, and inhibit our bodies from functioning as God designed. Likewise, scripture tells us not to get drunk (Ephesians 5:18), and by the same principle it could be said not to get “high.” Instead we are to “walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness… But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provisions, to gratify its desires” (Romans 13:13-14).
If our longing is for Christ and to live according to God’s laws, we must not give into our fleshly desires. So a good discussion with your teens may then be the reality of marijuana’s effect on our mind and how that could sinfully lead to other fleshly desires.
God’s word tells us that we are to submit to the laws of the land. Therefore, a teenager using pot is in willful sin against God, since it is illegal in all states. For those states where it is legal for adults, we must continue to filter our thoughts through a gospel grid. How we think about what God’s word tells us will be a reflection of our heart toward God. His word is unchanging even in an ever-changing, post-modern culture that begs us to believe life is found in something other than Christ. Let’s help shape our teenagers’ minds so they don’t go to pot.