The Government wants us to stop smoking, or rather not to start. I thought there would be howls of protest at our ‘nanny state’, but in fact there’s been widespread approval.

When I was a teenager, smoking was frowned on in Christian circles, but it didn’t stop us giving it a try. Going to the cinema or the pub was also discouraged, and reading pornography, and swearing!

As I remember, we defied most of these prohibitions at one time or another, which was all part of growing up.

These days I’m much more aware of the misery and cost of addictions: alcoholism and gambling are very difficult to break, and depictions of depravity and self-harm are as near as our mobile phones. As for inappropriate language, I’m fortunate to have a granddaughter who instructs me on what is politically correct!

Jesus is surprisingly drastic about the remedy. In the Sermon on the Mount, he says, “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out” and “If your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off”. Even assuming he’s exaggerating (our churches aren’t full of one-eyed, one-handed people) this is still tough talk.

But I like that Jesus treats us as adults. He says we can take responsibility for our behaviour, our habits, and even our thoughts. And we’re not alone. His Holy Spirit within us offers, among many beautiful qualities, ‘Joy, peace, and self-control’ (Galatians 5:22).

Written by Andrew Knowles of St George’s Church in Kendal.


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