You know better than to talk to the single collegians at your church about how great sex with your wife is, you know not to explain the tortures of hell with a believer whose non-Christian brother just passed away, but you freely post pictures of your beer on Facebook and if anyone has a problem with it he’s a “legalist.” I’m not here to talk about whether drinking is right or wrong, I’m here to ask what ever happened to not causing a weaker brother to stumble with your Christian liberties (1 Cor. 8)? What ever happened to grace and humility?
You may now be thinking, “Roger, don’t start with me. Drinking is not a sin. Jesus drank wine. Paul told Timothy to take a little wine for his stomach. Besides, I don’t get drunk.”
Okay. Let’s try this again.
The single collegians in your church have committed to wait until marriage to give their virginity to their brides as a gift, but you stay away from talking about the details and fun of sex with your spouse so as to not cause those students to stumble. In the same vein, you are wise enough to grieve with your sister in Christ by not talking about the pain and torment her relative is currently experiencing. Both these scenarios potentially involve both mature and immature Christians, so you choose your words wisely. You know that talking about sex in the marriage bed or discussing the theology of hell is not wrong, but it would be neither wise nor loving to discuss in certain contexts. So, why do you think it’s okay to talk about your choice of booze in front of those who might stumble knowing you drink, and if they have a problem with it they’re not a “weaker brother” but a “legalist”? You wouldn’t call that collegian a pervert or that grieving sister a universalist, would you?
“Okay, okay, Roger. I get your point. No need to be sarcastic and condescending.”
Fair enough. Let’s just chalk up my tone to “what goes around comes around.”
When I was serving overseas, a few friends from church went out to celebrate a birthday party. One of the men at the table was trying to get everyone to share his bottle of wine. It was more than just an attitude of “enjoy if you want;” it was more of a “c’mon, you sissies, drink up.” When I explained that my wife, who was seated next to me, has a relative who died of alcoholism (which ravaged the whole family for generations and continues to do so today), he replied, “All the more reason for you to drink.” To this day I don’t understand his logic, but I do understand that he was trying to be cool, make a point, and was, ironically, the immature one at the table.
In another instance when I was on the mission field, I had a great conversation with a fellow believer who sympathized and encouraged me in my then state of 1) having trouble raising support, and 2) trying to be healthy and lose weight. After dinner, he strongly encouraged me to slowly get used to alchohol so I could enjoy beer. I was dumbfounded. Convictions aside, what happened to his understanding of the fact that I had to pinch every penny (beer costs money) and lose weight (isn’t “beer belly” another term for “fat gut”?)? Alcohol became not merely a grey area but a priority to the point that all other spiritual and practical implications and convictions were cast aside. This is a problem.
Now, let’s say someone in your church doesn’t like you drinking because he is a legalist. Don’t just shove it in his face by ordering a beer the next time you’re out to dinner. Gently explain, shepherd, and lead. Teach and admonish (Col. 1:28-29), and be sure to do so to address his destructive legalism to help him with his walk with Christ, not so you can have that beer or convince him to have one. After all, if someone thinks drinking is a sin, they are twisting God’s Word, and in so doing are in sin themselves and need to be gently but firmly admonished, not called names and caused to stumble until they man up.
In your mind, you may call the Christian who has a problem with your drinking a weaker brother, an immature brother, or even a stupid brother. Just make sure to call him a brother. Then treat him like one.
The bottom line is you never know who your audience is on Facebook or at that restaurant. Drinking doesn’t make you better than non-drinkers, it just makes you someone who drinks. Those who insist Christians should drink are in fact adhering to a twisted form of legalism themselves; the kind of legalism practiced by pagan cults. Remember that, and remember to be wise and careful with how you drink and whom you drink around.
And, please, stop drinking if you’re only doing so to prove a point. Whether it’s to show your former church you’re not like them or to show the world you are, doing anything just to prove a point is nothing more than an egotistical waste of time.
Finally, I can’t help but think how much better off me and my unbelieving friends would be if I was admonished to evangelize as much as I was encouraged to drink. I think you get the point.