Christians, Alcohol, Freedom, and Wisdom

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!

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* See my two previous posts The Gospel and the Pub as well as The Pub and the Disciple of Jesus.

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10 responses to “Christians, Alcohol, Freedom, and Wisdom

  1. That was a good balancing statement. When we became Orthodox we were tea-totalers; our pastor told us we were too uptight and to drink some wine. So we did. For the past few years we have had regular fellowship with a couple- the man is Jewish, the wife Christian. We would take a couple of bottles of wine with us to share at the meals; often Shabbat Friday night meals. I did not know it but they had begun to worry about me and my alcohol consumption. But the Lord knew about it. One week, I had a visitation of the Holy Spirit and the desire not to have alcohol came to me, and immediately that ceased in my life. It was remarkable, because prior to that I enjoyed an occasional glass or two of wine. Well, we went back to our friends house, and told them the visitation of the Lord, and they were amazed because they had planned to tell me their worries about my relationship to drinking wine that night, best I could tell. Glory to Jesus Christ.

  2. “The furnace proveth the edge by dipping: so doth wine the hearts of the proud by drunkeness.Wine is as good as life to a man, if it be drunk moderately: what life is then to a man that is without wine? for it was made to make men glad.Wine measurably drunk and in season bringeth gladness of the heart, and cheerfulness of the mind:But wine drunken with excess maketh bitterness of the mind, with brawling and quarrelling.Drunkenness increaseth the rage of a fool till he offend: it diminisheth strength, and maketh wounds.Rebuke not thy neighbour at the wine, and despise him not in his mirth: give him no despiteful words, and press not upon him with urging him [to drink.]If thou be made the master [of a feast,] lift not thyself up, but be among them as one of the rest; take diligent care for them, and so sit down.” Ecclesiasticus 31:26-31.
    See, what you’re missing not using the version of the OT used by the Apostles?:)

  3. Pingback: <b>Christians</b>, Alcohol, <b>Freedom</b>, and Wisdom | Kingdom Seeking | Christian News

  4. Check this relevant post out–(not my blog at all) but I think it addresses some of this. The comments are also intersting. http://mereorthodoxy.com/have-christians-lost-their-sense-of-difference/

    • I like Miroslav Volf’s “soft difference.” In the previous post “The Pub and the Disciple of Jesus” I share a story where a friend and I were sampling wine and cheese with party goers at what was announced as a “Wine and Cheese Party.” Any ways, my friend and I were there having a conversation about who Jesus was with the other party goers and we made sure that our behavior (language, attitude, etc…) was different. It was also apparent to the other party goers that our life was lived by a different set of values.

  5. I think we need to keep in mind that our society is not like that of two thousand years ago. One of the big differences is driving. I think we need to be extremely cautious when mixing alcohol and automobiles. (Just as we need to be cautious with mixing prescription drugs and driving)

    We also have to be sensitive to the brokenness in our culture regarding alcohol and the church’s failed response to that. Any sense of a “green light” given to our young people can be disastrous.

    We need some serious teaching on guidelines, things like not drinking to change the way you feel, caution with drinking alone, caution when driving within the next few hours, etc.

    I guess our people need to hear a “yellow light” on drinking rather than a “green light.” (or maybe a “blinking red” 🙂

    • You speak much wisdom here. Too often in churches we have simply said “stay away” and made the object of our command out to be completely evil. I would rather we teach people wisdom so that they have the resources to know when something, such as a glass of beer or wine, can be a good thing and when it isn’t a good thing. The same goes for sex, material goods, entertainment, etc…

  6. I appreciate your call not to judge, but it has to go the other way as well. A common misperception in our recovery ministry is that we are the morality police, patrolling the congregation. What we try and communicate is that we are not anti-alcohol, nor are we anti-drug; we are anti-sin (just as you describe the distinction). But we need to be careful- I’ve seen many people “young” in their recovery act very judgmental toward others who were able to manage their drinking (although not necessarily wisely). As we mature, we recognize that we cannot impose our weaknesses onto others.

    This has been a great series of posts (and you still haven’t told us much more about that book!). Thank you for tackling this subject.

  7. Pingback: Monday’s Links To Go | Tim Archer's Kitchen of Half-Baked Thoughts

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