Christians and Alcohol

Well once again it’s that merry time of year where we descend beneath a deluge of mince pies, mistletoe and Michael Bublé!

Christmas is coming! And so is New Year’s Eve!

I had a student I work with ask me recently if I was planning to get drunk at Christmas.

The sound of his jaw hitting the floor almost made me jump when I said no.

You’ve probably decided to read this post because you already have a pretty solid opinion on this topic and you want to see how it measures up to what you think.

It’s rare to find Christians on both sides of the legal drinking age who’ve not thought about this topic in detail. Especially the ones who’ve been through college or university.

Beliefs and opinions vary throughout the Church, across different countries, cultures, backgrounds and denominations. I’m aware of that.

I read this article called: What Does the Bible Really Say About Alcohol?

Go ahead, give it a read! It’s got some great insights that might help you settle a few things, especially if you’d like to get some balance to this argument because I have to be honest…

Image result for fingers in ears

I came to pick a fight.

You might get a little angry while you read this. You might even stop reading it. That’s up to you. But I came to pick a fight. Not with you. But maybe with your attitude…

This is not supposed to be a buzz kill. God does not want to ruin fun. Christians should be the funnest people in the world…but by his standards… not by their standards.

Some people freak out or frantically try and touch their eardrums when they get challenged on this topic and if that’s you then it’s you I’m talking to. I hope you manage to stick it out!

At Christmas time, we in the West (and especially in the UK) have 3 shared objectives:

  1. Eat our bodyweight in chocolate in preparation for the harsh wintery darkness to follow in January and February
  2. Listen to Mariah Carey and Michael Bublé until we hate them again
  3. Get absolutely and royally E.D’d. For those who don’t know, in the UK you can add the suffix ‘ed’ to the end of any noun and it becomes another way of saying drunk. For example: trolleyed, bladdered, park-benched etc

You should know something… I don’t drink.

I’ve also never been drunk in my 29 years of living. Does that make me a better Christian than you?

No.

Does that mean I’m talking down to you from atop my trusty high steed?

Nah.

I’m writing this because I genuinely think it might be hurting you, your walk with God and your relationships with other people.

I see a lot of folks struggle with faith while they struggle with alcohol and I’ve got to wonder if there’s a link.

Alcohol features a lot in the Bible and so does drunkenness. Church history is also full of both. I’ve never been fond of either but it seems like God takes issue with the latter.

I promise you I’ve tried to like it! From my 18th birthday I set out to find my drink of choice and at university if you sat next me at a bar then you’d have to be ready to let me try yours. I’ve tried so many different kinds of alcohol over the years from wine to whisky to cocktails, to vodka, beer, cider, rum and the list goes on.

I’ve given up and saved a tonne of money instead.

I grew up in a home without any alcohol and I didn’t even know you could follow Jesus and still have a beer until I was like 13! But I challenge you. Have you read what the Bible says about drinking or have you settled into what is most comfortable for you?

It’s pretty easy to try and construct a Christian lifestyle that slots nicely into our 21st century modern society without sticking out but sadly this tends to slowly lead us further down the road of living like we don’t know Jesus at all but still wearing the Christian t-shirt.

Poverty is about way more than money.

Seriously you should check out that other article because I’m not saying Christians shouldn’t drink alcohol at all (well maybe YOU shouldn’t) but reading the book of Proverbs recently, a certain theme stood out that seemed to come up a few times:
Do not join those who drink too much wine
or gorge themselves on meat,
for drunkards and gluttons become poor,
and drowsiness clothes them in rags.
– Proverbs 23:20-21 (NIV)

Image result for addicted to wine meme

Has anyone else noticed the weird sort of “I think I’m addicted to wine but hey let’s laugh it off” culture that’s out there? Wine is our friend who welcomes us home from a hard day of being a grown up. Wine takes care of awkward social situations for us. Wine assures us that everything is gonna be all right, at least until tomorrow. This is where it’s pretty tough to not come across as judgemental but it seems to me like it’s become a sort of a joke to be a low-key borderline alcoholic…

Now I’m sure we can all pretty quickly think of some very wealthy people who love to get hammered, so if you’re a weekend-warrior in the bars and nightclubs or you’re known by name at the local Bargain Booze but still holding down a good job, try not to walk past this one. Poverty is about way more than money.

Jesus tells us we can actually be poor in spirit.

The poor reach out their hands for the means to find comfort and a better life. The poor in spirit reach out for the same thing. Jesus says they can be blessed because in that place they can see their need for the kingdom and find it. But things can get in the way.

One of the first things to notice from that Proverbs passage is just that it’s possible to like wine too much and that liking wine too much is not good for you. The effect on your life is so strong in fact that the writer is like “don’t even hang around with people who like to drink too much!

What would your friendship group look like if you took that seriously? Who would you need to stop hanging out with? Who would stop hanging out with you? What about those who have to hang around you like your family or your kids? What’s the effect on them?

Sure, some people can go out partying without getting drunk but you can probably count the ones you know on one hand. Do you need to leave the club alone?

Now of course this isn’t really talking about your friends who don’t know Jesus because that would be stupid. Or even your friends who are newly saved. For the most part you should probably just be looking at yourself.

It’s become sort of a joke to be a borderline alcoholic

Who has woe? Who has sorrow?
Who has strife? Who has complaints?
Who has needless bruises? Who has bloodshot eyes?
Those who linger over wine,
who go to sample bowls of mixed wine.
Do not gaze at wine when it is red,
when it sparkles in the cup,
when it goes down smoothly!
In the end it bites like a snake
and poisons like a viper.
Your eyes will see strange sights,
and your mind will imagine confusing things.
You will be like one sleeping on the high seas,
lying on top of the rigging.
“They hit me,” you will say, “but I’m not hurt!
They beat me, but I don’t feel it!
When will I wake up
so I can find another drink?”
– Proverbs 23:29-35

Okay so this one looks a little OTT! Most people don’t devolve into an angry legless sailor when they get a few down them. But this little passage, especially at the end seems to capture something sad and melancholy about the dependence on alcohol.

I think this is where Ephesians 5:18 comes in.

Yep. I brought that verse out.

And you need to read it without trying to do any hermeneutical (interpretation) gymnastics to try and get over, under or around it. “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit…” It seems to me that Paul is implying that you can substitute one for the other and that is exactly what I’m afraid is happening in the lives of many well-meaning Christians.

We’ve made alcohol our Comforter. The One that gives us Courage.

Getting tipsy or getting drunk has become a source of joy in our lives, a way of medicating our emotional pain by dulling our senses. I’m not condemning anyone for having pain but I am definitely challenging the idea that getting drunk is a righteous or healthy way to deal with it.

This is an encouragement to spend time with God, maybe get some counselling and to pursue Godly friendship and community that holds, cares for and restores your heart.

This is an encouragement to dig into the well of the Word of God and drink from the fountain of life. By all means hold up a drink this Christmas and drink to celebrate but if the drink holds you, it might be time to let it go…

When we think about and talk about the reality of our freedom in Christ, knowing God’s love and His mercy, knowing His is for us and cheering us on, feeling His power work in us and through us, it just might lead us to the middle of the dancefloor!

There’s a far better life to be had in Jesus. Some people like to give up alcohol for “Dry January”. If this has spoken to you, that might be a good kickstarter to get you on track.

Feel free to message me if you’d like to have a judgement-free conversation about it.

If you’re angry or need any further thoughts from Proverbs, verse 20:1 is just for you 😉

We wish you a Merry Happy Christmas and a fun-filled New Year!

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