Christians & Alcohol

I believe the Bible is true for all ages–past, present, and future. But I also believe many things in the Bible describe a culture much different from ours. Rarely have I seen Christians so conservative, for example, that they insisted that women’s heads should be covered in church, although I dare say such Christians exist.

I doubt seriously that many of the Jews in biblical times were teetotalers. And I don’t know of anyone who’s found an eleventh commandment that says, “Thou shalt not drink alcohol.”

Although I grew up being taught that biblical wine was little more than grape juice, I find that hard to believe now. When Jesus turned water into wine, people marveled that the best wine had been saved for last. What that implies to me is “after they’d drunk enough they wouldn’t care about the quality anymore.” If my understanding is correct, it sure doesn’t sound like grape juice, does it?

The Bible preaches against drunkenness, though. And it tells about people who did some pretty objectionable things while intoxicated. Look up the story of what Noah did sometime after the ark landed if you question that. I’m not sure the Bible says King David was intoxicated when he was dancing naked in the street, but it sounds like a possibility.

By now you’re probably expecting me to say that I approve of Christians drinking and only disapprove of drunkenness.

WRONG!!! Although I have no right to judge Christians who believe drinking is okay, I don’t understand the need for it. Other than in countries where drinking wine from an early age is part of the culture.

The apostle Paul had some interesting things to say about eating meat that had been sacrificed to idols. I won’t try to explain the significance of that in the culture of Paul’s day, but suffice it to say that some Christians ate that meat without thinking twice about it, while others found it an extremely offensive practice.

Paul didn’t say whether it was right or wrong. Instead he told Believers to act according to their own consciences as long as they could do so without offending Believers who felt differently. Years ago I penned the following saying. “It’s not that Baptists don’t drink. They just don’t drink in front of other Baptists.” That generally gets at least a smile because people tend to recognize how accurately I’ve described the issue–and what Paul was talking about.

But what constitutes offense? Let me illustrate with a true story. I’ve changed a few of the identifying details, but otherwise it’s all too factual.

My ex- and I belonged to a good-sized church committee that went out to a local restaurant for a meal together. More than half of the members ordered alcohol. Now, in all fairness to them, no one drank to excess–or anywhere close to it. But what kind of example were we setting for other people in the restaurant?

It probably didn’t matter, some of you are saying. But suppose one of our group who had never drunk thought it must be okay because so many other people were doing it. And suppose that person ended up an alcoholic or caused a fatal auto accident while intoxicated.

Quite a few IFs, you might protest. Perhaps so, but my wife and I will continue to be teetotalers–she hasn’t always been one–because we don’t need alcohol to feel good. And because we want to set the best possible example–and make other non-drinkers feel comfortable.

What about you? Do you have an opinion you’d like to share? I’d love to have you share a comment.


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