Take some time and read THIS interesting essay from the recent issue of Christianity Today.
I think this is a very good and reasoned argument for abstaining from alcohol. Not drinking has never been difficult for me — I didn’t grow up with it around me, I decided early not to imbibe, (once I make a decision on something — I’m completely bull-headed about it), I don’t trust myself and my tendency to get gun-ho about things, I’ve seen the utter destruction it causes in families and individuals, it costs more than I’m willing to pay and I don’t want the potential stumbling stone that it clearly is for some as I perform my responsibilities as a pastor and seminary prof. I’m as unwilling to say every use of it is sinful as I am to say every use of it is permissible. I just think it is mostly unwise — particularly in the life of a spiritual leader.
For my position, I’ve often been misunderstood. I don’t think it makes me morally or spiritually superior. I like carbohydrates way too much to think that of myself. More often than not, my non-teetotaling brethren have accused me of being a “legalist” or some sort of “religious fanatic” when they find that I haven’t/don’t/don’t intend to drink. In something that is a mild irritation to me, I find that my non-Christian friends give me far less of a hard time about not drinking than do most of my Christian friends. It’s like they truly don’t understand (or agree with the idea) that I’m just not going to start drinking at this stage in my life. To some, it would appear that this commitment on my part makes me some sort of circus freak. I’ve rarely had to endure intense questioning, polite “jabs” of “humor” or those smirks exchanged between others who think that I didn’t notice them from my non-believing friends. It’s not really a big deal…I’m well past junior high and peer pressure… but it is an interesting reality. I just truly find no “upside” that is Biblical for me to drink, therefore I don’t.
But I agree with this author that the pendulum has swung too wide on the topic. For all our emphasis on “not drinking to excess” or “avoiding drunkenness”, there are just too many stories of alcohol-fueled excess in the evangelical church today and I personally think it is because we’ve become far too frivolous about it. I just wish I heard anywhere near the amount of warning about it’s dangers as I hear the rationalizations and justifications for Christians to use it.
It’s a decision each of us must make — Christian or not. It should be made thoughtfully and carefully. It should not be made with a group of half-sloshed college freshman chanting “chug, chug, chug.” It should not be made when one is depressed or stressed and looking to escape. It should not be made because we desire to prove we aren’t fundy puritan legalists and want to show we really are enjoying the grace-filled life. Being a non-drinker should not be a commitment that we think will give us special status in the Kingdom, favor with God or immunity to other addictive tendencies. But perhaps we should look at the whole of alcohol’s impact — both potential and present. I think if we did, fewer of us would feel that our freedom in Christ need be demonstrated at the lip of a bottle or can.