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Balance: One Christian’s View of Alcohol Part III

July 27, 2008

Well, I finally have legitimate internet back in my house again.  I’ve been without it for the last week and a half, and so blogging hasn’t been easy.

Anyway, let’s finish up this alcohol rant.  I guess it’s finally time I share why I even started this whole thing in the first place.  Let me say before I begin though, that there is a small discussion over at my friend’s place concerning these posts and this topic and general.  You should check it out if you want to see the “standard” (though not historical) view of alcohol especially among evangelical leadership.  These guys, though are awesome guys and I absolutely respect and admire their ministries; I just disagree with a few of their conclusions on this matter. 

Okay, why am I talking about alcohol?  Recently (June) I moved back to Thailand to spend a second year teaching at a Christian Thai school right outside of Bangkok.  However, before I came back I felt led to make the decision to abstain from alcohol for the year as a “fast” unto the Lord.  There were a number of reasons I chose this, and to be honest, some of them had to do with my questions about whether or not a Christian should drink (based on my cultural presuppositions that I inherited).  I did feel like this would be a time of growth and freedom and that the Lord would take this “fast” and make something of it, so it has been a good decision.

As I made this decision though, I wanted to see what the Bible really said about alcohol and in a time of abstinance, come to a conclusion based on scripture and not on a cultural influence.  And the conclusion I’ve come to is one of balance:  to appreciate the beauty and the danger of this gift.  In fact this time of reflection has given me a new, purer appreciation for it than before.  I do feel like the next time I have a beer or glass of wine, it will be with thanksgiving and joy at the graciousness of God (at least I hope).

I respect people who have made a decision not to drink when they’ve taken all of the biblical considerations into account.  However, I do find this to often be a source of pride and judgment for many Christians, as if it is some sort of “cross” to carry and they that choose it are more surrendered to Christ.  I find that many Christians who say that they are okay with drinking but don’t themselves still pass judgment on Christians who have made the decision that it’s okay to drink.  And I don’t think this is balance.  Read the positive affirmations that the Bible passes on alcohol.  See what Isaiah, David, and Solomon thought about it.  It’s not evil.  It’s not “poison.”

At the same time, Christians who do drink, should be motivated by love when it comes to drinking around other people who could stumble.  I found that in my life, drinking was a “right” that I had as someone who knew what the Bible “really” said about it.  It didn’t matter if there were brothers and sisters who were stumbling over it.  I was not motivated by love to bear one another’s burdens. 

Once again:  balance.

I also find that the decision that churches make to have their leadership abstain from alcohol (see the discussion at Sam’s place [above]) goes beyond the biblical advice and warnings, and I find it to be inconsistent.

One of the best places to find how church leaders should behave in a church is Paul’s advice to Timothy.  In I Timothy,  Paul lays out the qualities of an overseer (a pastor) and a servant leader (a deacon).  In both cases, he says that they should not be “given to wine” (3: 3, 8).  Here Paul, says that the leaders should not be addicted to wine or controlled by it.  The mandate is balance, not abstinence.  Surely there were recovering alcoholics in these congregations!  We act like this is a new phenomenon.  Yet Paul doesn’t tell the leaders to abstain to minister to alcoholics.  Instead, show them freedom and deliverance by not being controlled by alcohol. 

When church leaderships go beyond what the Bible advises, they are acquiescing to the lie that alcohol makes alcoholics rather than fallen nature that is by nature out of balance.  I think the stronger approach would be to show the victory of Christ over all forms of addiction by showing that we are not ruled by it.  However,  if this decision is motivated solely by love then I would not dare challenge it.  But I find that it’s not usually the case.

It’s also inconsistent in the fact that I have never seen a church leadership call their leaders to abstain from fast food in order to reach those who are entangled by gluttony and bad eating habits that destroy their bodies and take their lives prematurely.  Most churches might embrace a view of moderation and correct eating habits (althought it’s not likely that they even specify this), but not abstinence.  That would be extreme.  But why is it somehow different when it comes to alcohol?  It can only be because we have bought into the lie that alcohol is inherently dangerous.

So in conclusion, I want to end by saying that each believer must come to his or her own conclusion about their choices concerning alcohol.  And each believer should respect the choices of their brothers and sisters.  I should respect and honor those who have decided to abstain permanently.  And others hopefully will respect and honor me when I choose to have a beer again (Dad, it’s going to be great sharing a beer with you when I return!).  But whatever choice we come to, we honor the Bible most fully when we can appreciate the beautiful balance God has established concerning alcohol (as He has with most of His precious gifts):

Wine is a “blessing,” (Psalm 104: 15), a symbol of salvation (Isaiah 25) and a measure of love (Song of Songs), yet believers should not “be drunk…but be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5).

Blessings.

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16 Comments leave one →
  1. cornishevangelist permalink
    July 27, 2008 7:08

    “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for the evidence of things not seen.”
    {Hebrews 11 v 1}.

    For faith is believing in things that we cannot see. Now we must believe that what we have prayed for will soon manifest in our lives, for by faith we will truly receive. Yet some people say, “ but it’s not easy and you don’t know what I am going through,” well, that is true, but it still doesn’t change the fact that Jesus said, “ All things are possible to them that believe,” and we must live by faith. It is worth hoping and believing for things in our lives to change, it really does not matter what people say, or what we feel, for God said, “For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God”. {1 Corinthians 3 v 19}.

    Well, you may say Billy these things that you have written seem to be very foolish, and contrary to civilized people of today, but the Bible says, “That the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men”. {1 Corinthians 1 v 25}.

    Dear saints never underestimate the power of our Lord’s gospel. Many people would like to know what you and I know, and see the things that you and I see, surely we are so blessed because we have the Holy Scriptures to tell us who and what we are in Christ.

    Yes, we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us. May we always have the faith to believe for a better life, for ourselves and our loved ones, for Jesus said, “I have come that you might have life and life more abundantly”. My prayer is that you may indeed have an abundant life in Christ Jesus”.

    It’was a glad day when Jesus found me, When His strong arms were thrown around me, When my sins He buried in the deepest sea, And my soul He filled with joy and victory, It’was a glad day, oh, hallelujah! It’was a glad day He claimed His own! I will shout a glad hosanna in glory, When I see Him upon His throne.

  2. Sam permalink
    July 28, 2008 6:15

    Jonathan –

    Great final post. I love the fact that though you’re promoting a balanced consumption of alcohol, you have personally chosen to abstain – that shows a lot of forethought. It’s one think to condone moderate drinking because it complements your personal life choices. It’s another to lay out a balanced approach and make the choice no one would have expected. It’s brings sincerity and authenticity to your remarks. Good luck with the year of fasting.

    Love you bro…

  3. jonathangroover permalink*
    July 28, 2008 8:25

    Sam,

    Thanks so much for the encouragement bro. I hope you and Robert don’t mind that I sort of piggybacked your discussion in my blog. I wanted to address it anyway, but felt apprehensive that it might be slightly pointed. I value the decisions that you guys have made greatly and I know that whatever choices you have made is for the sake of love and ministry alone.

    The choice to abstain has been a blessing and God has used this time to teach me where my own judgments and uses of alcohol were out of balance with His word. My view was as out of balance as anyone else’s based on the fact that I didn’t heed the warnings like I should.

    Love you too bro.

  4. July 28, 2008 8:26

    Hello Jonathan,

    great summary.

  5. Nathan Stitt permalink
    July 28, 2008 11:04

    Balance and moderation is key; I find myself agreeing with your sentiments completely.

  6. Jamie permalink
    July 28, 2008 8:30

    Hey bro. Nice post(s). Love the fast food illustration. Hope everything is going well for you.

  7. jonathangroover permalink*
    July 29, 2008 6:55

    Robert,
    Thanks for reading!

    Nathan
    I really thought your comparison of alcohol in a right context and manner to a good book or a long nap. That is exactly what I’m getting at when I speak of it as a blessing. We should appreciate it, but with caution. Thanks for reading!

    Jamie
    Thanks bro! I am doing pretty well. Teaching is going and Bangkok is a lot of fun. I will try to give you a call sometime if that’s cool.

  8. Jamie permalink
    August 4, 2008 8:17

    Yeah man, call me sometime!
    http://www.larknews.com/august_2008/secondary.php?page=4

  9. Savannah permalink
    March 26, 2009 8:43

    Hey Jonothan,

    I am writing a research paper and a thesis on: Should Christians Drink Alchohol? Your posts have helped me a lot, but I do have a question that myabe you can help me with.

    You’ve talked a little bit about how, if we do drink alchohol, we should drink it in moderation. I realize that, by this, you mean do not drink in excess (get drunk.) But how do you know how much is too much?

    God Bless,
    Savannah

  10. jonathangroover permalink*
    March 27, 2009 7:49

    Hey Savannah,

    Thanks for stopping by! That is a good question and one which I don’t have a definitive answer for.

    I think the easiest answer is this: if we drink to a point where we lose sensitivity to the Holy Spirit, our moral center begins to become unhinged, or the presence of God becomes muddled in our lives, then we are drinking to much. This is tough because it depends on the reality that all these things are already happening! In other words, we should be cultivating lives of holiness and relationship with God to a point where we can hear Him clearly.

    If one’s life is centered in Christ, the question of how much is too much doesn’t come up. If one decides to have a drink or two with other believers in a safe context, the Bible seems to give the ok, and even encourages it. That’s not to say that there shouldn’t be personal boundaries for the person.

    Hope that helped a little. 🙂

    Blessings.
    Jonathan

  11. Memphis permalink
    July 1, 2009 5:41

    Jonathan – very well thought out series of posts. One question I’d ask regarding the Biblical exhortation to church leaders regarding alcohol is this… how do you reconcile Paul’s admonition to pastors that they not be “given to wine” and to deacons that they not be “give to MUCH wine” (emphasis mine). In some circles this is intepreted that pastors should practice abstinence while deacons (like the rest of the flock) should practice moderation… what’s your take?

    • jonathangroover permalink*
      July 2, 2009 9:22

      Memphis,

      Thanks for the encouragement. I actually do not have an answer to your question. Without knowing the Greek constructions of I Timothy, I couldn’t honestly say what the real difference is. It may be that the Overseer is held to a higher standard (but it doesn’t say “don’t drink at all”, it says, “don’t be GIVEN to wine” or addicted). It may be that Paul is simply wording it differently.

      I think the conclusion that you propose is reasonable and worthy of consideration. It’s a great question in any case. 🙂

      • Memphis permalink
        July 12, 2009 6:45

        Jonathan,

        As I conduct my own study into this topic, here’s a verse I don’t recall seeing before. Leviticus 10:9. It is pertaining to Aaron and his sons being set aside as prisets for the children of Israel, but I wonder if it doesn’t lend creedance to the belief that Paul’s instruction to pastors is absinence insteadof moderation. On the other hand, it specifically references abstinence “when [they] come into the tent of meeting” (NASB), which could simply mean “don’t get a drink before coming to church”. 🙂

    • samuel permalink
      September 19, 2012 7:59

      Hi Memphis, thanks for exposition and really appreciate Jonathan objectivity about this topic. I think the bible passage you quoted should be carefully looked into to understand God’s position about approaching is presence. Mind you this was God talking in Lev 10:9 – 10 the KJV put this way “Do not drink wine nor strong drink, thou, nor thy sons with thee, when ye go into the tabernacle of the congregation, lest ye die: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your GENERATIONS. And that ye may put difference between holy and unholy, and between unclean and clean.”. In the Old testament only the priest were allowed to the presence of God but now we all are refered to as priest of our God (1Pet 2:9), which mean daily we approach His presence every day. Dealing with the same God should we say this part of the bible is not applicable to us? This is just my reasoning will appreciate your response to this.

  12. Alex permalink
    August 5, 2011 1:48

    Personally I have chosen not to drink, and I have raised my children that they have a personal choice to make and there is no need to drink. No benefit will come is what I tell them, but also tell them it’s a personal decision each of us made.
    I also do not mind others drink at a function but its a great turn off to me to see women drinking. (that’s my personal opinion). I don’t feel comfortable and I like he Christian good wife that has discipline.

    The bible clearly tells us the devil is a liar, and while jonathangroover is obviously intelligent and strong not many people are like him with discipline to fast for a year.
    The problem is when man lives for the world, man looses touch. And the lies of the devil make one less coherent. The devils likes gradual changes where one misses the significance until it’s too late.

    Here is a great example of what I mean.
    I enjoy health and working out (martial arts). Last year I was in great shape. I thought I had went down to the perfect weight. Everyone told me I looked great.
    9 months later many friends I did not see since the last function told me I lost more weight and I looked better. I was puzzled. I did not know what weight they assumed I lost as to me it never was there to begin. I was already in excellent fitness and today I still can’t see the weight. But I did in fact lose weight when checking the scale that night.

    Alcohol in my opinion is the same. Gradual changes will take place. The steadfast liar Satin will allow one to loose overtime his rational. This is the ultimate power of Satin. To allow one to be tricked into making their own free will decision and cause their own problems.

    Alcoholism is a big problem and Christians are better off encouraging abstinence to each other.
    And Frankly when I have choices like Carrot , Apple, Celery, or Sorbets (bananas, pineapple, mago’ etc) that are good for me and make me feel great, the choice is clear!

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  1. Book Review of Alchohol Today: Abstinence in an Age of Indulgence « You can take everything I have..

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