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This is the teaching site of the West Side church of Christ in Fort Worth, TX. Unless otherwise indicated, all materials were written and prepared by Stan Cox

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In The News: The Michael Phelps Bong Imroglio

ImageA photograph of Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps was recently revealed, showing the talented swimmer smoking marijuana from a large pipe or “bong” at a party. The picture was taken by cell phone camera, and has led to a national furor as the seriousness of his inappropriate and illegal behavior is debated.

First it should be noted that Phelps is doing nothing different than millions of other Americans. A good portion of our society sees little wrong with smoking marijuana, and advocates often compare the practice with the use of alcohol. Such comparisons are legitimate, at least with regard to the morality of the practice. Both substances are drugs, and the use of either is indefensible for Christians (cf. Galatians 5:19-21; 1 Peter 4:1-3).

Regardless, the use of marijuana has the added dimension of being unlawful. It is criminal, and the fact that it is dismissed by so many as being simply youthful indiscretion is a commentary on just how far our society has fallen. “Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves” (Romans 13:2).

In reading about the Phelps’ incident, I came across an article which pointed out another interesting aspect of the event. Since Phelps is a celebrity, the issue of celebrities and athletes as role models is a natural point of discussion. The question is a commonly asked one, should celebrities and pro athletes be role models?

Note the following opinion, expressed by Stephen Marche of the National Post:

The most bizarre aspect of the Phelps furor, however, was the idea, seemingly widely accepted, that athletes are still role models. If pot is the only drug that Phelps tries, he is genuinely a hero of modern sports. Every month or so, one amazingly gifted performer or another does something like walk into a nightclub with a loaded gun tucked into his sweatpants and, forgetting to turn on the safety, shoots himself in the thigh. Phelps is no Plaxico Burress, but if today’s children are using athletes as life guides, then today’s children are doomed.

No celebrities, of any kind, are good models for anyone anymore; constant media scrutiny has assured us of that. Celebrities are characters in gossipy narratives, not paragons or ideals.

The performance of Michael Phelps at the recent summer Olympic Games was absolutely amazing. His athletic ability is awe inspiring, and his dedication to his sport is impressive. He is, however, a young man who has admitted to drunk driving and pot smoking. We certainly hope his apology is sincere, and such unlawful behavior is in his past. Regardless of his athletic prowess, he has shown a very serious deficiency in character that makes him unqualified to serve as a role model for any young person.

For the Christian, role models abound. Elders, preachers, Bible class teachers and other mature Christians show in their lives and example the type of life to be emulated by all. We would do well to heed their example. And, of course, the greatest example is our Lord Himself. Peter put it so eloquently, “For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: Who committed no sin, Nor was deceit found in His mouth” (1 Peter 2:21-22). Look to Jesus as your example, and “follow His steps.”