So, you’re a Christian who believes it’s not wrong, improper, or irresponsible to drink alcohol.
But I can ask you a favor?
Please don’t flaunt it.
And here’s why…
Last Friday night I attended our congregation’s Celebrate Recovery meeting, which includes a newcomer’s class for those who haven’t been before and want to learn more. I’ve sat in on this class before, but I wanted to observe it again to see and hear how things are being presented. Among other things, the class goes over the guidelines for participating in one of CR’s small groups. This time, the guideline that caught my attention most was this one:
Offensive language has no place in a Christ-centered recovery group. The main issue here is that the Lord’s name is not used inappropriately. We also avoid graphic descriptions. If anyone feels uncomfortable with how explicitly a speaker is sharing regarding his/her behaviors, then you may indicate so by simply raising your hand. The speaker will then respect your boundaries by being less specific in his/her descriptions. This will avoid potential triggers that could cause a person to act out.
Did you catch that word “trigger”?
Sometimes I don’t think enough about how my words and actions might be a “trigger” point that causes someone else to stumble, relapse, or sin. But this is exactly what a Christian ought to be thinking about. Consider these scriptures:
“Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Things that cause people to stumble are bound to come, but woe to anyone through whom they come'” (Luke 17:1).
“Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a person to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble” (Romans 14:20).
“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God – even as I try to please everyone in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved” (1 Corinthians 10:31-33).
“‘I have the right to do anything,’ you say – but not everything is beneficial. ‘I have the right to do anything’ – but not everything is constructive. No one should seek their own good, but the good of others” (1 Corinthians 10:23-24).
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3-4).
Those passages of Scripture make it clear that a Christian’s actions are guided by a deeper question than simply, “Is this wrong?”
Fellow preacher Wes McAdams once wrote a blog post about why he doesn’t drink alcohol, and one of his reasons was this:
Another reason I don’t drink is because of my love for people. I love the children who might see me drinking and follow my example. I love the alcoholics who might find it more difficult to remain sober if they saw me drinking. I love the Christians who would think less of me if they saw me with a beer in my hand. I love them all. And my love for them keeps me from drinking.
You say, “It isn’t a sin to drink a little!” But I say (with the apostle Paul), “Just because something isn’t necessarily sinful, doesn’t mean it is helpful or that it builds others up” (see 1 Corinthians 10:23). The question, “Is it wrong?” is not the only question that must be answered. We must also answer, “Is it loving?” And, “Is it helpful to others?”
You see, this is what Christian living is all about – sacrificing our rights, privileges, and pleasures for the good of others and the glory of God. If drinking is my right, as many suggest, then I will gladly forfeit it to keep others from stumbling.
So, if you are a Christian who drinks, please don’t flaunt it.
Your description of your drinking, your excitement about the latest drink you tried or hip bar you visited, and your social media posts of pictures with drinks in your hand might be the trigger point that causes a recovering alcoholic to lose his or her sobriety. Or it might be the reason a young person decides that all Christians are hypocrites and thus walks away from Christ.
This might seem unfair, but the way of Christ demands more of us than might seem fair, according to our judgment.
Having a drink without getting drunk might not violate Scripture, but causing someone else to stumble because you didn’t consider how celebrating your freedom might impact others does.
So, let each of us – in all our actions and speech – be thoughtful and considerate of the impact we might be making on others.
And let each of us live more mindfully of the way of Christ, for which we Christians are ambassadors.
2 thoughts on “To Christians Who Drink”
I think that one important detail here that is often left out, namely the Apostle Paul also telling Christian’s not to “condemn” another by their own standards. For example, “Romans 14:2-3: “one person’s faith allows them to eat anything, but another person’s faith is weak, eats only vegetables. The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not; and the one who does not eat everything “must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them.”
I think this is a lesson that must be preached with neutrality. Far too often, one side of this is defended, while the other is not.
Could my judgement be a stumbling block to others? Suppose a brother drinks a beer with his meal; it helps him relax after a hard day.
Suppose a sister sees him drink this beer, and then she goes and gossips (sin) to other church members. Now, this brother feels the heat from all of the gossip, so he decides to leave the church because he’s had enough of the gossip.
Who is to blame? He who had the drink, or she who spoke ill of a brother?
One could say that if he hadn’t touched the drink, the sister wouldn’t have gossiped, which we can be sure that this particular busy sister could most definitely find something else of which to gossip! (We know from scripture that he is guilty of being a stumbling block already) – (the chapter does speak of both not judging and not being a stumbling block, yet we seem to pick a winner of the two based on popular and personal opinion – a clear violation of this text)
So then, why do we only preach but the one half of this story? Does a sinner care? Does a person of the world care what you drink? Conversely, I have known ministers who would travel to Germany and have BEER with people whom they are preaching to; because that is the culture there. These ministers would offend people (stumbling block) if they refuse to drink the beer. So then, the beer was a conduit in one story, (FOR GOOD) and a stumbling block in another.
Is it POSSIBLE that the other side of this story is more relevant to what the church NEEDS to hear?
Thanks for the comment, Matt!