A SOBER LOOK AT ALCOHOL

I am going to say two things about drinking. First, it is not wrong to drink. Second, it can be wrong to drink. Stay with me.

IT IS NOT WRONG TO DRINK.

Scripture does not encourage it, but it does not condemn it. Drinking is not a good thing; it is a neutral thing. Scripture condemns drinking to excess. And that not only means getting drunk. Some alcoholics stop before they are soused, but they are clearly drinking to excess.

Jesus turned water into wine, and it wasn’t grape juice. They knew the difference. Jesus hung around  sinners so much that they accused him of being a drunkard. We don’t know if He drank. We do know that He was a lot harder on legalistic Pharisees than on broken sinners. Four times in Romans 14, the chapter that talks most about gray areas, Paul speaks about not passing judgment. In our tendency to make absolutes relative and relatives absolute, we get more spiritual than the Bible and judge people in areas where they are free to disagree with us.

IT CAN BE WRONG TO DRINK.

Liberals are the new fundamentalists: No guns! John Wayne and his buddies disagree, plus a whole lot of 2nd Amendment Americans. Fundamentalism (at least in the past) has said, “No drinking–period.” They were wrong. Now some Christians have swung the other way and opened the door without regulators. As Luther said, one can fall off a horse on either side. Retreat to legalism and create all kinds of problems. Go to the other extreme and end up in the same ditch. Go ahead and say it: “I am a Christian and I am free to drink.” No you aren’t. At least not the way you’re sounding. Love restricts liberty.
It is not a sin to drink, but it may not be smart. Alcohol is dangerous. It kills people by the truckloads. So we need to think soberly about the issues and not think we are free when and where we want. While Paul condemns judging a brother in matters of personal conscience, he does put limitations on personal habits. We cannot simply say, “To each his own,” because we are called to die to ourselves and live for others. Paul chose “never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother” (14:13). He limited his freedom for the sake of his friends. Why? Because “the kingdom of God is not food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (17). Unity overrides personal preference. How do I know if something might be offensive to a weaker brother? By not making my right an absolute right. Paul further limited his own freedom when dealing with those outside the family of God. He changed his style, preference, eating and drinking habits. Drinking is not wrong, but it can be if we are not sensitive to others (Romans 14:15-21).  “Everything is permissible,” but not everything benefits all. No one should seek his own good, but the good of others” (I Cor. 10:24).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s