The social world is an interesting place that never seems to tire of doing (supposedly) the right thing but ends up turning out to be massively wrong — an evil of sorts. Elections, creation of laws and assertive public opinions all play important roles in trying to do the right thing. I’m old enough to remember when smoking was encouraged as a way to be social. Cigarette ads were a dime a dozen in those days. Like the ad, “the Marlboro Man” who was riding on his horse in a pristine untouched snow scene with small non-threatening snow flakes falling. His girl behind him with her arms snuggly wrapped around him and her head on his shoulder while a cigarette dangled from his mouth and the horse gently plodding through the snow. I was only ten at the time, second from the youngest of six siblings who all smoked except my mother and sister. I never did start, but it wasn’t because there was no social pressure put on me. Each of my brothers, numerous friends, potential girlfriends, teachers and people of authority tried to get me to smoke.
I remember one poignant winter day my brother helped me deliver papers on my news route since it was a pretty bad storm. When one of the big brothers was willing to help, you would never refuse. So we loaded the papers and went on the route. Big brother would stop at each customer and I’d grab the paper, open the door in the midst of the blizzard, run up the driveway, pop the front storm door open, sandwich the paper securely without destroying it, latch the door, run back to the car and plop on the seat in a flurry of snow. I’d remove my parka hood and the second I did that, my brother was handing me a cigarette saying, “It will keep you warm…” I’d politely refuse but it would happen every six or seven delivery times because he felt bad for me. I figured out that every time the delivery was extremely treacherous, he would offer a cigarette in the hopes of creating a more cozy comfortable environment. He actually did it out of love.
This is the same brother who was right beside me when I went to have my tonsils out. Coming out of surgery on the stretcher with the doors flying open propelling me into recovery, he’s looking to see if I was alright. His face froze, turned ash white and he crumpled to the floor. I was too out of it to realize he stole my big moment, but that’s when we found out that my big brother would faint at the sight of a drop of blood, including his own. Big brother Mike was a sensitive caring guy and it was clear he loved me with all of his being.
My brother passed away a few years back from complications of the heart and lungs. Doctors always refuse to site a specific cause. They just list numerous reasons why a person dies. In those sweet moments of visiting my big brother going through the shadow of the valley of death, he was blessed with an amazing insight and clarity of purpose, a tremendous sense of destiny. My brother was about to enter eternal life and be face to face with our Lord Jesus Christ. He truly believed when the scripture said, John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” Then in John 3:36, “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”
So when he said to me in the hospital room several days before his actual death: “Tim, I’m dying and will soon be home with the Lord.” Pausing for a moment, he continued: “remember that day when I took you on the paper route?” I nodded my head and he continued: “Well, I remember offering you a cigarette…” I was in shock that he wanted to apologize for doing something many years ago! It was something that no one thought at the time was dangerous. That’s when I smiled and put my hand on his palm and just said, “Mike, it wasn’t the cigarette you were offering. You were trying to take away the pain and discomfort of the moment on that cold snowy windy day delivering those papers. You saw the discomfort. You’ve always been the one trying to take that discomfort away. Just like right now, I want to take your pain and suffering away. That’s what brothers do, but we both know it’s really in the hands of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Obviously when I left the room it took me a while to compose myself. Many days passed before that actually happened. I’ll be honest — it’s a memory that I’m still processing, but never once did I ever doubt my big brother’s love for his family.
The moral of the story? The morays of the time actually believed (including public opinion) that smoking was harmless, social and relaxing, but the actual truth, it could be and was a killer.
It’s still up to the individual person, their decision to smoke or not to smoke. That day and many thousands of days after, I made decisions not to smoke, not to pick up that cigarette. I went on to make other decisions that were right or wrong. Some I’ll never know until I’m in heaven in my resurrected body because these facts have not been fully revealed yet. Small cracks of truth began to emerge concerning the cigarette and as human intention brought to light revealing its evil sinister environment, the wave of public opinion changed. That is the social system, but it’s our decision to enter it or the Christian Life. That is the real issue. All of our lives we live in the midst of evil, human good and the Christian Way of Life. Our individual decisions determine entry into what system each of us will reside in — the Christian Way of Life or the Social System. As long as we are breathing, we have that choice.
Knowing the difference on either side, doesn’t give us an excuse to pursue aggressive behavioral compliance. Whether it’s direct or indirect pressure, it is still crusader arrogance. It is purely the decision of the individual. Social compliance mitigating individual choice creates a wide pendulum swing of good intentions. As did that peak smoking era, smokers would literally blow smoke in your face while sitting with a group of people at a restaurant. They would light up in the car, keeping the vent slightly cracked with smoke billowing through the cabin and of course, the ashtrays with its glorious smells. Most never thought of it as rude since it was common acceptance by the right of the majority which was the smoker of long ago past. That is the danger of public opinion, popular thought, popular science, social norms, and behavioral laws when truth is not the foundation, converting good intentions to evil. Human history is riddled with these aspirations, ideals and ambitions, all of which have consequences when flattened by divine truth.
The “seven stars,” “the sharp two-edged sword” and “a face like the sun showing strength” are all key phrases to the environment of decisions, where we presently find humanity at this pivotable juncture on planet earth. In Jesus Christ’s vision given to the Apostle John, we are about to see the consequence of our decisions — the bumpy road of good intentions. Revelation 1:16 (NASB95): “In His right hand He held seven stars, and out of His mouth came a sharp two-edged sword; and His face was like the sun shining in its strength.”
If you’ve enjoyed this discussion, come join us in exploring God’s plan with the message of His Son. We will be studying the things of yesterday, today and tomorrow in the Apostle John’s vision, the “Revelation of Jesus Christ” in the book “Oops, A Revelation! “Crossroads To Time!”