A few years ago, I was invited by a friend of mine to her 30th birthday party. She is not a believer, but we are good friends, and joined her and her friends at a local restaurant and bar on the social strip in my country. I ordered myself a Guinness, and sat among the group enjoying the conversations. At one point, I noticed two ladies from a church I used to visit moving through the crowd. I proceeded to get their attention and to acknowledge their presence and introduce them to a few of my friends. After about two hours, I left and returned home.
The following day, the two girls apparently went back to their church and mentioned that I was in this venue, drinking a Guinness. I was then inundated with messages from church goers, how I was no longer a real Christian, I now living the Party Lifestyle every-night, and this is apparent evidence of my evil and desperate need to repent or burn in hell forever.
The conversation turned into quite an embarrassment for my accusers when I pointed out that they were not accusing me of being a wine bibber and friend of sinners, just like Jesus. Further, I know the wife of the pastor has admitted to drinking wine on occasion, as well as I’ve attended dinner parties with the Pastor’s father-in-law, where wine was served. Not to mention their apparent failure to have this conversation with the two girls who actually attend their church, who were also in the venue, doing the same thing, was nothing short of hypocrisy.
This is the heart of religious Pharisee poisoned by Gnosticism. At the slightest hint of bad behavior, it’s an all out war, regardless of the circumstances, to point out someone’s evident sinfulness. This group has continued to bother me since that incident, because just like the Pharisee in the days of Jesus that never left him alone, neither can their religious hearts allow them to leave me alone either.
More recently, I had the pleasure of meeting a young lady for lunch to discuss some writing opportunities. I reached the restaurant before she did, and decided to wait by the bar, rather than sit by the entrance. While seated there, I ordered a beer, with the intents to see how this lady would react. (There is no greater religious test than this!) As she got out of the taxi, and found me by the bar, her comments to me were, “I had hoped you were drinking a coke.”
Needless to say, she proceeded to do her job as a good Pharisee and throw Bible verses at me, and speak Christianese talk about “One’s Testimony.” She was very concerned about her image, and standing. In the meanwhile I tried to explain to her Jesus was not interested in his reputation, for if he was, he would not have spent so much time with the prostitutes and sinners, or announce over the crowd that he was going to dine with Zaccheus (Luke 19:1-10).
The abstaining from alcohol for the sake of gaining spiritual brownie points, is an exclusively modern North American idea. You will not find such thinking anywhere else in the world, except in a few isolated pockets. In Europe, the idea of not drinking alcohol is condemned as religious nonsense, yet if you play violent video games, that is now seen as evil and sinful! In Asia, abstaining from video games and alcohol are both considered religious nonsense, but if you watch movies, you are putting yourself at risk of being demonized. Just because we are accustomed to one culture does not mean our perspective is true or biblically supported.
Just to be clear, I am very well aware of the potential dangers of alcohol, as I come from a family littered with alcoholics, many of whom I have lived with for years. I have memories of marking the bottles of rum to know how much was drunk and when, only to go back and accuse the drinker of hiding their drinking from me. For my personal experience, I am dead to sin, and I’m fully trusting in the Spirit of Christ in me to produce the fruit of Self Control. I am now able to drink alcohol responsibly.
For those who argue that alcohol diminishes our spirituality in some capacity, I would remind them that the Apostle Paul, Timothy and Jesus Christ all modeled responsible drinking, and it would be a stretch for me to believe than any of them were somehow affecting their Spiritual Growth.
With that said, I’m going to start a series on the subject of alcohol as seen through the Old Testament, the New Testament, as well as throughout Church History. We will examine what the Bible says, to whom it said it, and allow the Holy Spirit to direct us accordingly.
- I wish you were drinking a Coke Part 1
- The War on Wine Continues, Part 2
- Drinking with the Apostolic Fathers and the Reformers, Part 3
- The Objection Verses to Wine, Part 4
NT Wright talking about Gnosticism