The consumption of alcohol continues to be a controversial topic. I shared my personal thought process a while back (3 Reasons Why I Don’t Drink Alcohol). After a discussion with my wife about the topic and potential interpretations, I’ve come to realize it sounded more narrow-minded than I ever intended. I was hoping it would help readers come to their own conclusion.
So, since this blog is about our spiritual journey, let me apologize for my lack of clarity and let me share with you my new view on drinking alcohol.
No matter what your view may be, this topic is personal enough that not all will agree. Sometimes we can argue facts, but the reality is, much of this conversation is based on personal experience.
For example, a family impacted by an alcoholic family member, will almost certainly view this subject differently than a family who has created a culture of responsible consumption. And, if we were honest, there’s about thousand different situations in-between. We have to respect each and every one of these situations.
I also wanted to give Christians (especially believers who abstain from alcohol) the ability to see an example of “thinking it through.” Growing up, I really wasn’t given the opportunity or space to ask questions to define my own answer to whether or not I would consume alcohol. Did my original post successfully help people think? Probably not the way I would have liked.
My 3 Reasons Why I Don’t Drink Alcohol were never meant to be prescriptive to every Christian, nor do I judge any Christian who responsibly consumes alcohol. I have many Christian family members and friends who choose to consume – and do so in front of me. I certainly have no problem with that.
In fact, the reasons I give for not drinking, can easily become the reasons why a Christian could drink responsibly. It’s a healthy tension that each believer must weigh out as they make their decision.
So in light of that new understanding, I’ll give you three tensions a Christian must weigh out. Remember these are personal tensions – one that each believer must work through.
1. “No alcohol” versus “conservative alcohol.”
We don’t know for sure, but it’s safe to say that Jesus and his disciples consumed wine. It was part of their culture and it was never mentioned as being an issue.
Like I mention in my previous post, the only time the Greek word for “new wine” (gleukos, meaning “sweet unfermented wine”) is used, is in Acts 2. When the disciples were filled with the spirit, several witnesses were making fun of them as if they could get drunk off of weak wine.1 Why? Because they weren’t known to be drunk. Their view of alcohol was clearly on the conservative side.
THINK: How conservative do I need to be to gain the kind of reputation the disciples had?
2. “Sin” versus “Boundary.”
The only sin we see in scripture is drunkenness (Galatians 5:19-25). Unfortunately, drinking too much alcohol leads to drunkenness. So the natural tension becomes one of sin versus boundary. Because of his stomach and sickness, Paul told Timothy to have a little wine (1 Timothy 5:23). Obviously, the journey wasn’t towards sin but towards a healthy boundary.
THINK: What boundaries do I have to put in place in order to stay away from drunkenness?
3. “Culture” versus “Witness.”
There’s a vast discussion here alone. The tensions of particular situations, local cultures, and ethnic traditions, all impact how we understand alcohol. That, paired with our potential witness to others, could dramatically impact our view.
Paul said, “All things are lawful, but not all things are helpful” (1 Corinthians 10:23). Likewise, “Those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit” (Galatians 5:24-25). No matter the situation, we need to be willing to put our own desires aside for the sake of the Kingdom and live in that tension.
THINK: How does my culture and witness impact my view of alcohol?
How do you reflect on these tensions regarding alcohol consumption?
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|1.||⇑||There was a procedure to have “new wine” all year long even though it was only naturally possible for part of the year. (F.F. Bruce, The Book of the Acts, NICNT (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1988), 59.)|