Published in Challenge Weekly in 2010
Alcohol is very much in the news at the moment. One example is the tragic death of James Webster due to binge drinking. Another is the University of Otago study which demonstrates that alcohol in NZ costs around the same price as bottle water! While it is arguable that bottled water is a waste of money and overpriced, this is a sad state of affairs. While our politicians toy with the alcohol laws refusing to make the substantive changes needed, the problem deepens. Alcohol abuse is also very personal to me as many years ago I lost a very close relative to vodka. So how can we Christian's respond to this ongoing problem?
Generally speaking, the Scriptures do not prohibit alcohol drinking. Jesus was criticised for drinking with sinners and also turned water into wine at a wedding (Luke 7:34; John 2:1-10). Paul forbade getting drunk rather than drinking itself (Eph 5:18; 1 Tim 2:8; Tit 2:3) and even once mentioned alcohol's medicinal benefit (1 Tim 5:23). There are individuals like John the Baptist who were directly instructed by God not to drink alcohol as part of their special calling (Luke 1:15). Paul also encouraged believers who were not prone to drunkenness to be prepared to give up drinking alcohol if it would cause their brother or sister to fall (Rom 14:21). What we need to realise too is that all this is written into a world where alcohol was a huge issue with the god of wine Dionysus (also Bacchus) very popular. Getting wasted was not uncommon for many.
Aside from those with a special calling like John, we Christians today are faced with an interesting choice. Do we choose not to drink at all or do we drink in moderation?
I have had an interesting personal journey in this regard. When came to Christ due to my boozing background, for several years I abstained completely. One day I went to visit a colleague who had been charged with a sexual offense. He was an unbeliever and had been completely ostracised. His first words to me were, 'Mark, great to see you, have a beer!' Despite my abstinence, I felt in the Lord I had to say yes or the moment would be lost. I did, and in the next few years was able to share Christ with him and I have great hope that he is now with the Lord. After this, I began to have a drink when among non-believers and found that witnessing opportunities began to open up. I even had the privilege of leading some to the Lord. When my relative died I reviewed this felt it was right to remain a moderate drinker as for me it removed a barrier in witness. I must say, in light of the increasing problems in society in this area, I am beginning to rethink this again. In a society which is increasingly alcohol dependent, should I continue in moderation or should I return to abstinence? Go deeper.