I very recently read a post in which the writer stated his case that a Christian should not drink alcohol. The writer grudgingly allowed that a Christian could do so, but that because of a host of reasons he or she should not. I do not subscribe to that point of view, and that has prompted me to write a reply. It is of course not fair for me to produce my reply without also offering a link to the post which inspired this rebuttal, a post which was very well written even though I disagree with it, but that would require a competency with computers that I simply do not enjoy. Therefore I am going to present my opinion and my opinion alone. Reader, please take that into consideration.
Can a Christian drink alcohol? Of course a Christian can drink alcohol. I can drink alcohol; this I know, ’cause the Bible tells me so. Psalm 104 focuses on the things, good things, which God has provided for man’s happiness, which include among many other blessings “…wine which makes man’s heart glad.” The wedding in Cana was where Jesus produced his first miracle, turning up to 160 gallons of water into wine. I would love to have been at that party! On the last night of our Lord’s pre-resurrection life on Earth He shared a meal with His disciples of bread and…wine! So we can put to rest the idea that a Christian can’t drink alcohol. We should also put to rest the idea that a Christian who desires to drink alcohol should not at any time do so.
There is no argument that drinking alcohol involves risk. People who are inclined to drink must weigh the possible negative effects if he or she should abuse alcohol. But how many other things fall into that category? I would like to suggest that there are many things that represent a risk to the Christian and his stumbling brother and should be practiced with caution or not at all. My personal favorite is consumerism, and I want to make it clear before I go on that I am fabulously rich and am not throwing stones which don’t deserve to land on me as well.
A great many Christians like myself live in a good deal more space than we need. I grew up in a family of four which inhabited a house of less than 1,000 square feet. I now live in a house of just under 1,500 square feet with only my wife, my children having grown up and moved away. I have two automobiles, one three years old and one sixteen. I have all I want to eat and, yes, drink. I own books, clothes, a computer and many other luxuries. This I do while the great majority of people on Earth, including Christian brothers and sisters, struggle to stay alive from day to day. Matthew 19:24 says it will be easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get into heaven. I should read that and tremble. Alcohol presents a risk to the body while consumerism presents a risk to the soul. Christian, if you are reading this on your personal computer or smart phone you are rich. Think about that.
And then there is this whole business about causing my brother or sister to stumble. How many common practices of most American Christians could be described as causing that to happen? Most Christians eat a lot of sugar and refined and processed food products, and even give them to their friends. And I mean a lot. How much obesity and diabetes and cardiovascular disease and blown out knees and other joints is a result of that? Surely those effects are every bit as deadly as is the abuse – not the use – of alcohol. The Bible does not say that we cannot eat junk, but Jesus never changed a dinner of cage-free chicken with grilled asparagus and a peach for desert into a plate of chicken nuggets with french fries and a donut. What the Bible DOES say is that the body is a temple of the Holy Spirit so by the ‘Christians shouldn’t drink alcohol’ logic, any Christian who eats the standard American diet and shares that diet with another is causing himself and many brothers and sisters to stumble.
Perhaps a model we should be pursuing of a Christian life is one in which we live simply in a small space, eat simple food such as rice and beans and vegetables, many of which can be grown in our own back yard or in a community garden, with a little animal protein (which I might point out makes my vegan friends ‘stumble’), travel mostly by public transportation and yet fully pursue our careers so that the excess income can be given away to bless our less fortunate neighbors, Christian or otherwise. A Christian who engages sacrificially with his or her neighbors and refuses to live a rich man’s life as compared with them is going to present a much sweeter and more winsome representation of Christ to the world than a person living in their 2,000 square foot mansion with all of the material luxuries and goodies and toys, and who refrains from drinking alcohol, but also refrains from getting dirty by mixing with ‘those sort of people’.
In conclusion, I would want to suggest one sure-fire practice which will cause our neighbors, Christian and otherwise, to stumble every time, and that is the practice of creating man-made rules and passing them off as biblically ordained. We Christians have a long and rich history of engaging with that sin. European and American missionaries who believed that inhabitants of the rest of the world had to become like Europeans and Americans before they could become Christians is one glaring example of this, and boarding schools for Native American children that were run by Christian denominations were an abomination which only the unbounded grace and mercy of God will cover and make right in the end. The effort of first century Jewish Christians to make gentiles Jewish before they could become Christian comes immediately to mind, and you know what Paul thought of that.
A skeptical public is not going to be attracted to the church of Jesus Christ in the world by a list of extra biblical man-made rules. Only a sincere model of a man or woman following in the footsteps of Jesus, rubbing shoulders with the sick and poor and marginalized on Earth and sharing with their want and pain and joy is going to get that job done. And that, I believe, IS in the Bible.