Alcohol (and the consumption thereof) is a major point of division amongst Evangelical Christians.
Over the past few years, as I have deliberated about alcohol (and the consumption thereof), and as I have talked with Christian peers, I have noticed an interesting trend. Specifically, those raised in “Christian” families tend to express their “freedom in Christ” and their desire to “redeem” alcohol, whereas those raised in secular families seem to be more wary (of course, no specific quantitative study was completed for verification – rather, this is simply a general observation).
For instance, my parents and I disagree on alcohol (and the consumption thereof).
My parents, raised in what I will simply term “non-Evangelical families,” had the difficult task of not only working out their own salvation, but also pointing our family to King Jesus. Part of this task included the decision to be completely abstinent from alcohol (as opposed to their pre-conversion lifestyles); therefore, we did not have alcohol in our home, nor have I ever seen my parents consume alcohol. To be sure, I owe much to my parents for praying, struggling, guiding, and disciplining me throughout my upbringing. And yet, as I enter adulthood, as I attempt to “make my faith my own,” I have come to disagree with them on this point of Christian praxis.
Several years ago, my family was sitting around a campfire and the topic of alcohol came up. Sparing you the details, my mother indicated that the main problem with Christians consuming alcohol is that you do not want to be liable for causing a brother or sister in Christ to stumble.
I have heard this argument before. I am sure you have too.
In fact, this argument left me so uneasy that I decided to write my seminary capstone paper around this issue.
Paul’s point in Romans 14 – 15 is that if you are less scrupulous you ought not persuade your more scrupulous brother into doing something outside of his faith context. Conversely, if you are more scrupulous you ought not judge the less scrupulous for being such.
In other words, if you believe you can drink alcohol to the glory of God (1 Cor 10:31), please do not attempt to persuade your brother into also drinking alcohol if it is outside of his faith context. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin (Rom 14:23). Conversely, if drinking alcohol makes you operate outside of your faith context, then simply do not drink alcohol. However, remember that it is not your place to scornfully judge your brother (not least his Christian status) for the freedom he experiences. God is our judge, and we will all give an account before him (Rom 14:4, 12).
With that said, a few ruminations on alcohol:
First, alcohol (i.e., the substance) is not sinful.
Second, I am convinced that drinking alcohol is also not sinful. For clarity’s sake, “drinking” alcohol is quite different than being “drunk” on alcohol. This is a distinction that needs to be made.
Therefore, what can be sinful is the heart attitude behind this action (or inaction).
In short, do not persuade when you should not, and do not judge when you should not.
P.S. If you are interested in reading my paper in full, you can email me at email@example.com to request a copy.