Christians and Alcohol (updated)

update: added clarification to the third-to-last paragraph about standards for church leaders.
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so last week during “ask abe tuesday” i received an email asking for my opinions on Christians and alcohol. i’ve been taking my time to mull over the answer, and then i just got busy and didn’t have much time to post. i haven’t purposely been avoiding the question. but i figure a week is long enough to wait for an answer.

so first off here’s the question(s) as they were asked:
// What is your position on Christians and alcohol?  and then do you think that leaders in a church should be held to a higher standard? what about jobs in the alcohol industry? (i have a couple different reasons for asking, but that is the question in a nutshell.  let me know if you want specifics) //

i didn’t ask for any specifics from this person so i’ll give you my answer to the questions as presented.

growing up my family was part of the Hispanic Pentecostal Holiness Church. if you’re not familiar with that denomination it puts a strong emphasis on “holiness” living. which practically to me meant a lot of do’s a don’ts. everything from the big rules like the 10 commandments (obviously) such as do not lie, steal, kill, covet, commit adultery, etc.
to other less “eternally” impacting rules like don’t go to movie theaters, girls should have long hair, we didn’t play card games. and then of course all of the sinful vices in between there. “we didn’t smoke, drink, or chew, or date girls that do!”

so there is part of my background. another aspect of it was the knowledge that my father used to drink heavily (possibly even an alcoholic) before i was born. and we knew that his body was paying the consequences of his drinking days. (he had to have a liver transplant in ’96 because his liver was shot) so i knew that drinking and getting drunk would lead to not only dumb decisions, but physical pain and illness.

and then i went to college and was away from my parental guidance and began to test the guidelines i had been given.* i went to the movie theater with my Christian friends from college. i learned various card games on missions trips.

did i take up drinking during that time? no. but there was a lot of hypothetical debate in the Christian college dorm floors about whether it was okay or not. basically those who had grown up as i did saying that it was always wrong because the Bible says not to get “drunk with wine.” and then those on the other side saying, “yeah, it says not to get drunk but it doesn’t say we can’t have a glass of wine or a beer every once in a while.” and in fact the Bible does mention that Paul encouraged Timothy to have a little wine “for his stomach”.

and then there was the argument that in Germany (beer drinkers extraordinaire of the world) even youth drink beer at practically every meal. now whether this is true or not i don’t know but it made sense to me at the time.

well, so where do i stand on all this . . . ? have i ever had alcohol besides during communion at some church i visited once?**

yes, i have had alcohol. on two separate occasions. neither one of them was during college. one was a time that i wanted to try some wine. i ended up trying some kind of red wine, and really hated the taste of it. and then the second time was some berry wine cooler, and it actually tasted pretty good. to me it seemed like a berry drink mixed with mineral water.

did i get drunk either time? no. did i feel different at all or a “buzz”? not really either. will i do it again? not sure, probably depends on the setting.

so my “position” is that although i agree with the Bible when it says not to get drunk. i also don’t see anywhere where it forbids it. in fact some verses also discuss it in a positive manner. (this article can give you my position in a nutshell albeit without the personal touch of my stories)

that being said, will i broadcast it from the pulpit that drinking alcohol is okay? probably not. (although, i’ve in one essence broadcast it to the world via this blog) i think that most people that ask a pastor an “is it okay to . . . “ type of question are looking for a license to do whatever they want to do than to understand the biblical position on the matter.

i think for me and for most Christians in North America the question about whether it’s “okay or not okay” to do something that isn’t explicitly stated in the Bible should look to 1 Cor. 8; and verse 9 especially. we should not let “the exercise of your freedom . . . become a stumbling block to the weak.”

now as for the other two questions . . . i don’t think that people should hold church leaders to a higher standard. because we’ve all fallen short of the glory of God and are only saved by His grace through faith. do people hold them to a different standard? yes. are they held to a higher standard/responsibility? yes, Jesus is the one that holds them to that according to Luke 12:48 and 1 Tim. 3. so the distinction is that i don’t think people should hold one standard for church leaders and another standard for themselves. but it’s clear in scripture that God views us differently.

and as to the questions on jobs in the alcohol industry i would have to refer back to the verses mentioned above.

i think that just about covers it all. i’d love to hear your views on the matter. leave a comment or email me directly if you wish.

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// today i'm thankful for:
1. a cuddly 1 year old
2. a joyful 3 year old
3. a fiesty fun 5 year old
4. a growing responsible 7 year old
5. and a absolutely glowing 21 year old wife*** ;-)

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* it actually started once on a band trip in high school when i went to my first movie in the movie theater. we had been taught that movie theaters were a bad place where sinners hung out. and i went and saw “Groundhog Day” and came out without a bolt of lightning striking me.

** i was actually really young like 8-10 and i didn’t realize that it was wine at the time but i knew that it tasted really gross. i didn’t connect the dots that they were probably using real wine instead of grape juice till much later.

*** no, deb’s not 21. and no i don’t have another wife that’s 21. but i know better than to “broadcast” to the world a woman’s age!