Okay, one more post about Christians, the pub, and drinking beer or whatever your drink of choice may be. But with this post rather than dealing with the missional task of living as gospel witnesses to the people in the pub,* I want to take a different direction and discuss the freedom Christians have in Christ and the wisdom necessary to live responsibly as free people.
This post is inspired by some constructive dialogue I shared in with a fellow Christian and friend of mine who shall remain nameless in this post. As I said, my friend is a Christian but he does not drink. He is a teetotaler but not because he believes that it is wrong for Christians to consume any alcohol. He doesn’t drink because alcoholism runs prevalent in his family and he is prone to addictive behavior, so he doesn’t want to start something which, as his family history would suggest, will become a destructive problem for him.
I think my friend is very wise. For the same reasons, my wife has chosen not to drink. I think my wife is wise too and out of respect for her decision, I never try to get my wife to take a drink. Even though I occasionally enjoy a beer, I don’t look down on people who choose not to drink. Unfortunately, my friend feels that he is sometimes looked down upon by other Christians who do drink because he practices abstinence. This is unfortunate and sad. In light of all this, I want to throw out some thoughts about Christianity, alcohol, freedom in Christ, and godly wisdom.
First, not everyone should drink! Just because we can do something doesn’t mean we must. If alcoholism runs prevalent in our family, if we are prone to addictive behaviors, or if we are not sure that we can exercise self-control when it comes to drinking, then we should not drink. We may or may not be able to sit in a pub or winery and that is a choice we will need to make ourselves.
But know this… I do believe that drunkenness is a sin (cf. Gal 5:21). Alcoholism is also wrong because, as I understand it, to be an alcoholic is to be enslaved to alcohol rather than righteousness. So if we cannot drink without avoiding becoming drunk or becoming enslaved to alcohol, then we should not drink. Not only does drunkenness and alcoholism (like all sin) destroy our missional witness but it can destroy our lives, including our marriages and families.
Second, be free in Christ and quit judging. There is not one single passage in scripture that says it is a sin to drink a beer or have a glass of wine. I won’t waste my time getting into all of the argumentation here but trust me, I know the passages and arguments pertinent to this issue and this is the conclusion I have arrived at. We are free in Christ to have a drink and we are free to not have a drink!
With that being said, no Christian who enjoys an occasional beer or glass of wine should ever pass judgment on a Christian who chooses not to enjoy that beverage. Like my friend and my wife, Christians who choose not to drink have good reasons for making that choice. For some of them it is also a matter of conscience because they cannot drink that beer or glass of wine in faith and whatever does not come from faith is sin (cf. Rom 14:23). And so I need to say that when we, who feel at liberty to drink in moderation, judge those Christians who choose not too, it shows that still don’t truly understand what freedom in Christ is all about. Freedom is not uniformity but the blessing we all have in Christ to live by faith according to our conscience.
Lastly, be wise! Just because we have the freedom to drink in moderation does not mean that it is always wise to drink or talk about it. There are some bars and clubs I will go into and there are some I won’t. I will sit in a pub and enjoy a beer with someone while trying to minister to them, be the hands and feet of Jesus to them, etc… but I’m not going to join some beer drinking contest where the only goal is too see who can drink the most in the shortest amount of time.
Knowing when and when not is a matter of wisdom, something for which there isn’t any standard rule for. So seek wisdom…seek wisdom that is shaped by the gospel story. Whether we are enjoying glass of wine in front of the fire place with our spouse or we’re having a glass a beer in a local micro-brewery while having a conversation about who Jesus is with someone (something I have done!), the aim is to be living witnesses of Jesus Christ. So be wise!