Saturday, May 09, 2009

Jim Rayburn Smoked Cigarettes

I smoked 2 packs of cigarettes a day from ages 18-21. I smoked when I awoke, after every meal, when I drank, while playing golf, while playing in various bands, and so on. I’m glad I stopped because I meet a lot of people who are now suffering with health issues because they smoked all their lives.

I have friends who smoke but want to stop, for three reasons: 1) it costs a lot; 2) health issues; and 3) the shame laid on them from legalistic religious people. These friends of mine are addicted to cigarettes. They need compassion more than judgment. If you’re reading this, just remember that you’ve got your own addictions, so we all won’t need to be pointing fingers.

Now - something about Jim Rayburn, founder of an enormously effective outreach ministry to teens called Young Life, and which we have right here in our high schools in Monroe County. Billy Graham once said this of Rayburn: “Jim Rayburn was one of the greatest Christians I ever knew, and he had a profound influence on my life.” And, by the way, Rayburn smoked cigarettes all his life.

In Rayburn’s biography his son writes: “In his heart, Jim didn’t feel such things were important spiritual issues, but he couldn’t step free from the guilt of breaking the many rules learned in church. He smoked his whole life, but never felt the freedom to do so in public. In essence, he feared the rejection and judgment of his Christian peers.”

Rayburn lived in a time when the health risks of smoking were not well-known. Perhaps had he lived today he might see that it’s not a good thing to smoke. But let’s add this also - it’s not a good thing to stuff our faces with chips and mashed potatoes and pop and cinnabons either. If you are a glutton and reading this I now free you from pointing your finger at someone who smokes cigarettes.

I think Rayburn was correct. Satan’s goal is not to get people to smoke. And Jesus didn’t die on the Cross so we could all eat correctly, exercise every day, and stop inhaling toxins. Legalistic forms of Christianity judge people for things like smoking while enjoying pot luck suppers in the church building. Jim Rayburn chose to “major on life’s majors” and not engage in gnat-straining Pharisaisms. The result is that many, many, many young people have been introduced to the Real Jesus and have lived lives producing lasting fruit. (Check out Young Life’s website here.)