Alcohol, Christian Liberty, & Fellowship

A Letter to a Christian Brother Concerning Alcohol Consumption & Christian Liberty

(The following is a portion of a letter I wrote to Christian brother (& friend) who had a very difficult time understanding how it could be OK for Christians (& definitely Christian leaders) to consume alcohol.

…thanks for taking the time to discuss this issue. It shows your genuine concern for me and for all our youth...I can't tell you how much that encourages me! Thanks brother.

I feel like I understand all your concerns about Christian alcohol consumption and I respect your desire to live correctly in the sight of God. Hopefully, we are always willing to re-examine ourselves from time to time to see if what we view as "correct living" is really correct or not. So I would like to throw some things out for you to consider concerning this issue and also give you some personal reasons why I drink alcohol.

First of all, I would like to warn you about your understanding of what it means to make a weaker brother stumble (Romans 14). If making a weaker brother stumble is what your saying it is (he was basically arguing that anything we do that may lead to someone else being tempted to something sinful is sin) then it is impossible for us not be a stumbling block unto our brothers. Because people struggle with all sorts of things...not just alcohol! Paul is not asking the Romans to refrain from anything people may take offense with or struggle with. He is asking them to make someone go against their conscience. Meaning, if one was convicted about eating certain meat or drinking certain drink, he was free to not do so but he was not to impose that freedom unto someone else as law.

If your position on what it means to make the weaker brother stumble was true, the list of our offenses is seemingly endless! If we simply go to the mall, have a nice car or house, buy new clothes, etc...we could be a so called "stumbling block" for those who struggle with materialism. If we use the Internet, e-mail, go to a store that happens to sell adult magazines (like a gas station), etc...we could be a "stumbling block" for those who struggle with porn. If we use or own guns, drive motorcycles, enjoy any type of extreme sport, etc... people could take "offense" to it because it may cause someone to "stumble." If we go to the movies or own any movies, a weaker teen could take that to mean all movies are fine and it become a "stumbling block" to him! I think you see what I mean. Anything we do could be called a stumbling block if you define in those terms. Read Romans 14 for yourself. You'll see that Paul is concerned about Christians, both the strong (who by the way were the ones who drink alcohol) and the weak, to not impose their Christian liberties on to one another.

Secondly, the Scriptures never talk badly about alcohol...the Scriptures only condemn the misuse (i.e. sin) of abusing & misusing it! It's like saying guns are bad, when it's not the guns that are evil but the misuse of them. Or it's like saying cars are bad because of the magnitude of car deaths when it's not the cars that are bad but the misuse of them! Wine is viewed as a blessing from God and something to delight in.

There are many positive statements about alcoholic beverages: Deut 14:26 implies that it is a good thing to drink wine and strong drink to the Lord: “And you may spend the money for whatever your heart desires, for oxen, or sheep, or wine, or strong drink, or whatever your heart desires; and there you shall eat in the presence of the LORD your God and rejoice, you and your household” (NASB). Psalm 4:7 compares joy in the Lord to the abundance of wine; Psalm 104:14-15 credits God as the creator of wine that “makes a man’s heart glad” (cf. also Hos 2:8); honoring the Lord with one’s wealth is rewarded with the blessings of abundant stores of wine (Prov 3:10); love is compared to wine repeatedly in the Song of Songs, as though good wine were similarly sweet (1:2, 4; 4:10; 7:9). The Lord prepares a banquet with “well-aged wines... and fine, well-aged wines” for his people (Isa 25:6) [and obviously, this cannot be grape juice, for aging does nothing but ferment it!]. Wine is so often connected with the blessings of God that I’m hard-pressed to figure out why so many modern Christians view drink as the worst of all evils. Their view of alcohol must be shaped more by culture and their experience rather than God’s Word.

The lack of wine is actually viewed as a judgment from God (Jer 48:33; Lam 2:12; Hos 2:9; Joel 1:10; Hag 2:16); and, conversely, its provision is viewed as a blessing from the Lord (cf. Gen 27:28; Deut 7:13; 11:14; Joel 2:19, 24; 3:18; Amos 9:13-14).

There was even the Passover tradition that went beyond the biblical teaching: by the time of the first century, every adult was obliged to have four glasses of wine during the Passover celebration. Jesus and his disciples did this in the Last Supper. The fact that the wine of the Passover was a symbol the Lord used for his blood and for the new covenant shows quite clearly that God’s view of wine and alcohol is quite different from that of many modern Christians.

Thirdly, and a much more personal reason, I cannot tell you how many times my consumption of alcohol (and/or occasional cigar) has helped in ministering to others (both Christian & non) who choose to do the same thing. Some of the best conversations I’ve had about life, the reality & character of God, and our need for the Gospel has been over a few beers and a cigar. Unfortunately, many of our non-Christian friends and family sees the Bible as just a book of ‘Thou shalt nots,’ and they see the God of “Christianity” as a cosmic killjoy; and so often, the only Bible they may read is the one written on our lives and spoken from our lips. It’s amazing how a beer and cigar will completely rid them of the legalistic stigmas that follow much of “Christianity”…it shows them that the Gospel and “the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit…”(Romans 14:17). (That is a very personal note and of course does not apply to those who feel called to abstain; but for me, I have experienced this time & time again.)

And I don’t think one needs to drink in order to minister to drinking non-Christians! I think the best example of balance on this issue can be see in Luke 7:33-34: John the Baptist abstained from drinking wine; Jesus did not abstain (indeed, people called him a drunkard!). Both respected one another and both recognized that their individual lifestyles were not universal principles. One man may choose not to drink; another may choose to drink. Likewise we ought not to condemn another servant of the Lord for his choice.

I hope this helps you understand my position a bit more. I love you man. And thanks again for taking the time to discuss this issue! God bless you!

Recommended books on this issue...