Sometimes dealing with people is like playing capture the flag in a field of land mines. Without even realizing it you can take a wrong step and then: BOOM. The church in particular is full of hot button items ready to go off. Most of the issues that we focus on make sense, or at least from one perspective they do. Perhaps if this subject proves important enough it can turn into a series.
One item that continues to surprise me is alcohol. It’s like the church wants to live thirty years in the past. Ignorance is only cute for about fifteen years. Then the cuteness expires and the whole kitchen starts smelling funky if you don’t pitch the problem. So, let’s approach the issue.
Disclaimer: Alcohol can be dangerous. It is a substance that can easily be abused. It is also a substance that has contributed to an incredible amount of pain and bad decisions. The pastor in me can understand why the church tries to banish it all together. Alcohol has caused A LOT of pain in the world. It has played a roll in countless bad decisions that have destroyed lives, relationships, and families. Worse, the bad decisions rarely just affect the one who makes them. As a result many innocent people have suffered from the mistakes of those who have ABUSED alcohol. I have no problem with people who want to avoid the stuff all together because of the pain and suffering it has caused.
Here is where the issue sets: alcohol, take it or leave it must be handled appropriately and with the right heart. Saying no to alcohol is not wrong. In many cases it is wise. Appropriate reasons include but are not limited to: addictive personality, alcoholism in the family, don’t want it, don’t like it, have seen the pain it causes and want nothing to do with it. Inappropriate reasons include: it’s a sin, you will go to hell if you drink it, it’s wrong, God hates it.
This leads us to the core of the problem. Ignorance. Why is that so often that is the root of an issue? It amazes me that this issue is still so divisive in the church.
A lot of Christians believe that alcohol is in itself sinful. They believe God forbids its consumption. Some even call it devil juice and claim it is only for the heathens. Even many who don’t have the intellectual honesty to come out and say it have a very judgmental attitude toward it. They may not take a grand stand against it but in their hearts they see someone drinking as being non-Christian/heathen/immature. So fellow Jesus followers rather than remaining in our ignorance let us take an actual look at what the Bible has to say:
What the Bible says about Drinking:
1. Jesus was called a wine bibber and glutton (Matt 11:19, Luke 7:34)
2. Jesus’s first miracle was turning water into wine. You know how? He brews it….sorry…couldnt resist. The wine Jesus made was good wine. You know what that means? High alcohol content. At the time parties lasted for a week. What the host would do is serve strong wine up front until everyone got nice and toasty. Then as their guests became less sober the host would start watering down the wine to save on costs. The master of the feast indicated that Jesus brand of wine was the best. Some will say that means flavor. It surely does. It also means potency. Jesus made wine…and it was alcoholic…-Dramatic Gasp- (John 2:1-12)
3. Paul commands Timothy to stop drinking just water and to have some wine. To be fair, there are health reasons for this. An argument can be made that the use of wine was just to kill bacteria in the water and with modern water purification such measures are no longer needed. Such an argument wouldn’t be wrong. If however, drinking alcohol was wrong, it would seem strange that Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit would instruct his disciple to do it. It’s not like Paul was a big softy who was afraid of seeing people suffer. Enduring trials for the cause of Christ was not uncommon or unusual in his mind. So that too seems a viable object for the Biblical permission to drink (1 Timothy 5:23).
4. The Last Supper. What do you think was in the “cup”. Grape Juice? That’s cute. Now let’s tell our favorite Santa story, hide eggs for the easter bunny, and put our teeth under our pillows for the tooth fairy. Really? Come now people. Let’s use the grey matter between our ears. I’m not saying you have to drink to have a party. I don’t think alcohol is necessary for fun. What I am saying, is that Jewish feasts included alcohol.
Is there room for rebuttal from the other side? Sure. In fact if you want to look at a bunch of Old Testament verses that have been twisted, skewed, and interpreted not for what they naturally say but for what a bias party wants them to say…there are numerous passages. Here are some reasonable verses to counter:
1. 1 Timothy 3:2 talks about leaders in the church being sober-minded. Let’s deal with this for what it is. Does it say they can’t have a drink? No. It says they need to have a sober mind. This means they need to be clear headed. If one drink gets you drunk…dont do it. However, most people can have a beer or glass of wine easily with no effect on their judgment or sober mindedness. This is HARDLY a seal the deal argument against drinking.
2. Ephesians 5:18 says don’t get drunk. A fair verse, one of many (Proverbs 23:20, Isaiah 5:22, Romans 13:13, 1 Cor. 6:10, Galatians 5:19-21, 1 Timothy 3:8, ect ect). To treat these verses fairly we must differentiate between drunkenness and drinking. Having a drink doesn’t make you drunk. Having a couple of drinks doesn’t often get you drunk (unless you hit the hard stuff). Now we have the heart of the issue. Biblically drunkenness is sinful. It is something the Christian should avoid. It’s not a damn you to hell for all eternity sin. It is an act of disobedience against the commands of Jesus. Therefore setting out to get drunk is an act of rebellion against God. It is NOT unforgivable note should it be taken lightly. Sin is bad. Just because their is grace doesn’t give us the excuse to do as we want and ask for forgiveness later. That is not loving toward Jesus. So if the issue in debate is drunkenness, I’m against that. Why? The Bible is against it. If it’s drinking, that case has yet to be proven. Let’s keep looking.
3. Romans 14:13-23 says not to do anything that causes your brother to stumble. This verse gives arguments against drinking the most merit. This captures the heart of God most fairly in the avoidance of alcohol. To avoid drinking, not because drinking itself is a sin but because it may cause others to stumble into sin is noble and Biblical. Don’t just avoid alcohol, know why. The heart of why you do or don’t drink is as important as your choice in doing it. The heart to not drink MUST be for the example to your fellow believers and to outsiders. This however, in my opinion is the ONLY verse that holds any way against drinking. Here is my counter: we live in a fallen world. Between global warming, homosexual marriage, P.E.T.A, gun control, politics, Nascar, sports, and numerous other issues it’s pretty much impossible to do anything or go anywhere without risking offending someone else. Why? We are all so stinking sensitive. Bunch of babies with boo-boos we are. I agree anyone who chooses to exercise their freedom to drink MUST do so with discretion. Don’t cause others to sin. Don’t drink too much. Don’t drink around people who you don’t know where they stand on it. Be respectful. Be considerate. When in doubt, don’t risk causing your brother to stumble. This verse I believe is for caution not for prohibition.
Rebutting the Rebuttal
1. Look at Colossians 2:16, “Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink”
2. Consider 1 Corinthians 6:12 “All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be enslaved by anything.” This captures my argument well. Are we free to drink? Yes. So long as we do not give in to drunkenness and are not enslaved by it.
Are Christians permitted to drink? Yes. Is alcohol a sin? No. Is drinking too much a sin? Yes. Are Christians permitted to be drunk? No.
10 Practical points:
1. If you have a history of substance abuse or an addictive personality – don’t drink.
2. If you are an alcohol or recovering alcoholic – don’t drink.
3. If you drink too much when you drink – don’t drink.
4. If you lose control or clarity in your thought when you drink – don’t drink.
5. If someone might stumble because they witness you drinking – don’t drink.
6. If you come from a line of drunks – consider not drinking.
7. If you don’t feel right about drinking – don’t drink.
8. If you don’t want to drink – don’t drink.
9. Just because one of the above applies to you doesn’t meant it applies to everyone else – don’t judge.
10. If you are convicted in not drinking, you need to understand the Bible does not forbid the consumption of alcohol. It warns and prohibits the ABUSE of alcohol. You may not like drinking. You may disagree with it entirely and with anyone for doing it. You are entitled to your opinion. That doesn’t give you the right to use the Bible to say what you want it to say. You can’t demand Biblically that people stop drinking. So don’t.
For example: I hate smoking. I hate it with a passion. I think it’s stupid. I think it’s gross. I think it’s a waste of money. I think it should never be allowed in public because I don’t want to breathe or even smell the crap. I think it stinks. I am allergic to smoke so when people do it even if they do it outside away from me and they come near me I can feel my lungs tighten up around them (which is annoying). I think it is FAR more harmful to the body than alcohol. I have lost some dear friends and family members to smoking. I can find several Scriptures that talk about the body being a temple and all that good stuff. I wish I could say it’s a sin to smoke. The Bible doesn’t say it is. So neither can I. It is WRONG to treat your interpretation of Scripture as if it were equal to the Word of God. Your interpretation is yours. The Bible is the Bible. The Bible was given to work on you not for you. We don’t get to dictate what it means or how it should be understood.
What it all comes down to my friends:
You can use your freedom in Christ to drink so long as you do not abuse your freedom in drinking. You don’t have to drink. For many it is wise to avoid it all together. If you drink, drink properly without causing others to sin. If you don’t, don’t do it for the right reasons.