Summary: In a world where alcohol is so prevalent at parties and social gatherings, how should we as Christians react? Is it okay to have a drink every now and then?
A few months ago, I was checking my email. And I got this message from a young friend who forwarded a message from a friend who serves in the military. The girl serving in the military had a question that was causing her a great deal of burden. Let me read you the email.
I currently serve in a branch of the United States military. I have noticed that in the military, alcohol is almost always present at social gatherings. In fact, it is deeply engrained in military culture. This makes for a difficult dilemma because I am also a Christian. You see I desperately want to honor God while I serve, and I know that alcohol can be a dangerous thing. But my comrades drink and I want to be connected with my friends in my company. What should I do?
She goes on to say, “I spoke to my chaplain and he told me that if I even touched alcohol, I was a hypocrite and that I was sinning. I need your help. What would you advise?”
It is a difficult question especially in the military culture where alcohol is handled so casually. How do we handle the issue of drinking as we strive to live in the world, but not be part of it?
Can we celebrate with a drink at a wedding for instance? Should we go to the bar with our friends? That is the question we are going to explore today.
First, it has to be noted that Scripture offers strong warnings about alcohol.
The first of which is …
Warnings about Alcohol
Don’t get drunk.
Ephesians 5:18 tells us in part, “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery…”
It is clear that God doesn’t want his followers to get drunk. Why? Because submitting oneself to drunkenness can quickly lead to debauchery. Now that’s a churchy word. But what debauchery means is extreme indulgence in sensual behavior. And as Christians that is counter to our call to live in purity. So our walk should be different.
Listen to what Paul writes in our text in Galatians 5:16ff.
16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
Paul says our life should be marked by the Spirit; not by indulgences of the flesh. He then delineates the difference between living in the flesh and walking in the Spirit.
19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
All the characteristics of the fruit are important, but let me focus on the one I think is especially impacted by alcohol. One of the characteristics of the fruit of the Spirit is self control.
The person who says “I can’t control myself” makes a very profound statement about their walk with the Spirit. Self control is a bi product of spiritual living. And the problem with being drunk is that we are no longer under control of the spirit, but the spirits (alcohol). Alcohol impacts self control. And I would suggest that one does not have to be drunk in order for alcohol to have control.
And when alcohol seizes complete control, it leads to debauchery and it peels away the layers of fruit that the Spirit is trying to build in us.
There is a reason that alcohol and drugs are often the medication for people in the porn industry. Alcohol lowers inhibitions and blocks shame. Alcohol is a depressant, drinking it in excess removes joy. Some people who drink in excess get mean, giving up the characteristics of peace and kindness and patience. Do you see how alcohol can quickly peel away the layers of the fruit that the Spirit is trying to build in us?
Warnings about Alcohol:
Alcohol should be handled with GREAT care.
Wine is a mocker and beer a brawler; whoever is led astray by them is not wise.
This is NOT a prohibition, but it IS a VERY strong warning. Based on this passage there are very few reasons I would choose to allow drinking. Please don’t go away and tell people I am encouraging you to drink. Alcohol should not be treated flippantly lest we be led astray into foolish behavior.