In my just-finished series on When We Fight and When We Don’t, I spent a lot more time on the doctrinal side than the behavioral side. I thought I’d share an experience I had a few years back that got my thinking developing on how we approach behavioral issues.
About 25 or so years ago, I noticed something odd. Every weekend, I would get a headache. Fine all week long, but every Saturday morning, like clockwork, headache. Sunday too. Then Monday I was fine again.
I tested a lot of variables to try to find out the cause. Sleeping in? Nope. Breakfast? Nope. Location-based allergies? Nope.
I guess you can figure out from the title of this post what the cause was. Every day at work I drank coffee. The departmental coffee pot was literally right next to my office, and I made good use of it. Weekend mornings, though, I didn’t make coffee at home.
Well, what am I gonna do about these headaches? I did what any sensible person would do.
I bought a coffee pot, and I made sure I had a cup on Saturday and Sunday mornings so I wouldn’t get a headache.
After I’d done that for a while, I got to thinking.
The headache was a caffeine withdrawal symptom. I was chemically addicted to caffeine.
But it’s not as bad as cocaine—and certainly not as bad as opioids—so it’s OK, right?
I skipped merrily along down that path for a bit longer, and my conscience really began to bother me.
I was a drug addict. Gotta have my hit. Every day. Or I won’t be able to function at my best.
And I thought of Paul’s words to the Corinthians: “All things are lawful unto me, … but I will not be brought under the power of any[thing]” (1Co 6.12).
My schedule and activities were being dictated by a physical addiction.
My conscience continued to bother me. And Paul also says that it’s a sin to violate the restrictions of your conscience (1Co 8.7)—even if the thing isn’t sinful in itself.
A Christian who realizes he’s sinning is supposed to stop.
So I did. Cold turkey. Three days of blinding headaches.
I got clean.
As follow-up, I would try a cup of coffee every few months just to see if the headaches returned. They did, so after a series of lengthening test periods I quit testing and just stayed clean.
Nowadays I find that I’m OK with a cup of decaf (which has a little caffeine, but not much) maybe 3 days a week without headaches. And I really love good coffee, so I’m happy about that. The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it (1Co 10.26), and we ought to enjoy whatever he’s placed here for us, the best we can.
Now. What do I do about my Christian friends who drink full-bore, drug-fueled coffee? Shall I become a prophet, crying in the wilderness against the evils of the demon bean?
Nope. Though I will say that it troubles me when my Christian friends declaim on social media about how they can’t live or function without their morning coffee. If they’re telling the truth—if they’re really physically addicted to caffeine—then I’d suggest that they think about whether maybe they ought to do something about that. Whether maybe they ought to be free—and might rejoice in their newfound freedom.
But short of addiction? Nope. The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it. If they’re drinking coffee and enjoying it, and especially if they’re thanking our good and gracious God for the joy it brings them, then I rejoice with those who rejoice.
For my first several years on the Bible faculty at BJU I shared an office with a long-time friend who’s a coffee aficionado. He roasts his own beans, as close to the time of consumption as possible; he grinds just a cup’s worth of beans at a time; he waxes eloquent on the specifics of crema. Every afternoon about 3, he’d say, “Well, time for a cup of coffee!” And the grinder would surge, and the office would fill with the most delightful aroma of fresh-roasted coffee beans. I couldn’t drink what he made, in good conscience, but I enjoyed the daily routine, and the aroma, and his pleasure in the simple experience of a good cup of coffee.
He’s not sinning. There’s nothing there to fight about, even though we’re behaving differently, for significant theological reasons.
What about you? Have a cup for me, my friends.
Just don’t get addicted.
And don’t sweat the small stuff.
In this outrage-addicted culture, here’s something we can disagree about, for substantial reasons, without being outraged.
How about that?