Should I smoke to have gospel conversations with my teammates?
Should I smoke to have gospel conversations with my teammates?

Welcome to this latest Ask CIS – the series where you the listener, involved in competitive and elite sport can get in touch with a question around what it means to be involved in sport, what it means to connect your sport and faith.

Click here to listen to this episode of AskCIS.

Today’s question is this:

Dear Christians in Sport,

I’m an amateur rugby player and love playing for my club, alongside socialising with my teammates most weeks. I want to share my faith with the boys, but there’s a problem – on nights out the best opportunity to chat is outside in the smoking area, away from the noise and where
it’s natural to have a deeper conversation.

So, should I smoke on a night out in order to have gospel conversations with my teammates?

Jesus is very clear in his command for all his people to go to the world and share the good news about his life, death and resurrection (Matt 28:16-20). But how we do this and where we do this often raises questions around what is appropriate and what is not.

Whilst Jesus didn’t teach on smoking specifically we still have much teaching in the Bible to help us come to a decision and he’s also given us his Spirit to help us live as his people in this world now.

Let’s split this answer into two parts:

  1. How does the Bible help us think about smoking?
  2. How might we witness in the smoking area on a night out?

Permittable vs Beneficial

As the apostle Paul writes to the church in Corinth and addresses some of the lifestyle decisions they are making, especially in the way they were using their bodies, he says in 1 Corinthians 6:12

“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial.

Here Paul is trying to help the followers of Jesus to understand that though they are saved by the grace of God through Christ, this does not permit them to take liberty in their daily living. You could exchange the word ‘beneficial’ with words like helpful, admirable, and good. Paul is encouraging his readers to consider in the freedoms of the gospel what is best for them and their bodies.

For example, an elite athlete has the freedom to eat anything they like, but a diet of only fast food is not going to be helpful for them if they want to compete at the top level in their sport.

Temple Bodies

In the same section of 1 Corinthians, Paul goes on to say:

“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, honour God with your bodies.” (6:19-20)

Paul is saying that our earthly bodies matter to God. As Christians, we have the promise of the Holy Spirit which comes to live in us and helps us follow God’s way and purpose for our lives.

Damaged bodies

Therefore, with this in mind, we must consider what smoking is actually going to do to our bodies.

The NHS website states that:

Every year around 76,000 people in the UK die from smoking, with many more living with debilitating smoking-related illnesses.

Smoking increases your risk of developing more than 50 serious health conditions. Some may be fatal, and others can cause irreversible long-term damage to your health.

As Paul guides us and as the health advisors tell us, smoking is not good or wise for our bodies or our friends, and it will only lead to damaging and harmful effects.

Of course, the challenge is different for those trying to quit smoking. The battle against addiction is tough, and it’s important to remember that in Christ there is grace for moments when you give in to temptation or fall short of your goals. Let the secure identity you have in Christ be your guide and comfort as you approach giving up smoking and any difficult decisions that arise in your sport because you are doing so. Do not fall into the trap of placing your self-worth in your ‘performance’ in this area.

So, what can you do when the Smoking Area conundrum arises?

One of the best parts about being involved in sport is enjoying it with others. Themed socials, meals and nights out are often how sports clubs spend time together outside of training and competitions. Spending time with our sports friends is encouraged in the Bible, it's a place where we can love them and serve them, as well as tell them about Jesus (1 Thess 2:8)

At my rugby club we’ve enjoyed all sorts of socials together, from Movember fundraisers, Christmas jumper nights and Six Nations specials but there often comes a moment on these socials when some of the boys go out on the balcony at the clubhouse for a smoke or leave the dance floor in the club to head to the smoking area. What should we do as Christians at this point?

As we’ve already considered, taking a cigarette for yourself is not going to be best choice. So, what are your options? Here are a few things to consider:

  1. Can you still stand with your friends in the smoking area and talk without smoking yourself? This will need careful consideration because we all struggle with different temptations and this might not be possible for you personally.
  2. Who else in your sports club doesn’t smoke? As some of your friends leave for a smoke, how can you be intentional and look to spend time with others in your club who don’t?
  3. What other social opportunities can you create outside of a night out that will allow for relaxed and meaningful conversation. Like inviting your teammates round for pasta the night before a competition, or heading to the local park run and sticking around for coffee afterwards, or gathering to watch some live sport together on a Saturday afternoon.

This topic needs careful consideration and prayer and we may sometimes get this wrong – praise the Lord for his kindness, wisdom and grace as we seek to honour him in all areas of our lives.

Though the Bible praises the selfless acts of taking the gospel to the ends of the earth, it does this in the context of making good choices which honour Christ. I pray God will help us all make wise decisions with our sports friends, which will lead to many gospel conversations.

Dave Hampton
Dave is a staff worker in Scotland. He coaches rugby at Stewarts Melville FP’s Rugby Club, and Heriot-Watt University and is a member of Christchurch Queensferry in Edinburgh (a plant of Charlotte Chapel.)

Do you have any questions about sport and faith?
Send them in to us at askcis​ or feel free to contact us via social media

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