Why Are Churches Against Drinking?

Doing anything to excess is bad for you. If you eat too much it’s bad for you, because you’re going to get fat. That’s how eating becomes the sin of gluttony. But we don’t say eating is a sin. We say gluttony is a sin. That’s why we don’t say, “Christians are not allowed to eat.”

So why do churches say we can’t drink?

A lot of churches have a rule that drinking alcohol is not allowed if you’re a member of the church’s staff. I don’t agree with that. They are saying that if I’m a pastor, or a youth pastor, or some other member of the staff, then I’m not allowed to sit at my dinner table and have a glass of wine with my wife. Why shouldn’t I? Why do you think anyone should be reprimanded for that?

Of course if the pastor has a drinking problem, then his church is going to take some flak for it. And as James says, he’ll to be held to a higher standard. But the “higher standard” is not whether pastors should drink or not. Jesus is the higher standard to which we are held. Jesus is the highest standard! Jesus, who drank wine.

Some people say drinking is a sin because of what it represents. They say that drinking a glass of wine at the dinner table misrepresents the church.

Does that mean Jesus misrepresented God when He drank wine?

People also talk a lot about avoiding the appearance of evil. But why is it evil to have a glass of wine at dinner with my wife? There’s no “appearance of evil” in that. If I’m drinking wine and standing on the table acting like a hoodlum, then that’s different. That’s the appearance of evil.

Enjoying an alcoholic beverage with my wife over dinner has nothing to do with evil. That’s just your judgment, and it’s not appropriate for you to judge me. I’m doing nothing wrong.

I am only expressing my personal opinion here, but I think that when churches make a rule against drinking, they are living in fear of man, not God. They are too afraid of their reputations. They’re afraid people are going to think bad things about them. They’re afraid if someone on staff has a glass of wine, people will say, “Oh, those aren’t good Christians.”

But why would anyone say that?  No one is doing anything wrong.

Well, they say, the nonbeliever will think that you’re sinning. Again, I have to ask why. Why would nonbelievers judge me for drinking? They wouldn’t. They are nonbelievers. They don’t believe in sin!  Suppose a nonbeliever sees me having a beer and says, “Aren’t you sinning?” If that happened, I would ask, “Well, do you think it’s a sin to drink?” Obviously they would say no. So then I would ask, “Then why do you think I’m sinning?”

There’s no reason to say that drinking alcohol legally, responsibly, and in moderation is a sin. This is a judgment. If you’re not living in sin through drink, then you’re not giving any kind of appearance of evil. You’re not doing anything wrong.

Jesus is the highest standard there is, the King of Kings, God in human flesh! His appearance is the appearance we should reflect, in all our words and deeds. His appearance is the only one that matters. Let’s reflect Him into the world without fear!

See you Wednesday.

Don’t Hide the Beer

What do you suppose your children think when you hide alcohol in the house?

Dad must be hiding it because he doesn’t want anybody to know it’s there. Why? Is it wrong? Maybe we should try it.

That’s why in my home, my sons know where the beer is. I tell them, “The beer is in the refrigerator. You can’t have it because you’re not old enough. But it’s right there. In fact, I’ll tell you what. Why don’t you go get me a beer? I’m old enough to drink, so go get me one, please.”

I want them to be able to go and get it, and hand it to me. I’m not going to hide the fact that there’s alcohol in the house. I want my sons to think, “Dad is being honest with us. Dad loves us and trusts us to know that there’s alcohol in the house. He’s not hiding anything.”

Sometimes kids have issues because their parents don’t want to address the reality of drinking. Instead of teaching their kids self-control by talking to them about drinking, parents use guilt or fear to control their kids. That creates a problem. It creates situations where kids only respect their parents out of fear or guilt, not love. That’s not how I want to raise my children.

I want my children to respect me. I’m hoping they respect me enough to know that they’re not allowed to drink. If I do catch them drinking, there will be some disciplinary action. Will I have to take the alcohol out of my house? I hope not. I would, if they’re not making wise decisions. But I’m not going to begin my relationship with my sons by hiding things. I won’t do it.

I don’t want my sons to look at me and say, “That’s my Dad. I respect him. I’m scared of him! I would rather obey him than feel guilty.”

I want them to say, “That’s my Daddy. I love and respect him because he loves and respects me. He’s honest with me. I know I can talk to him any time, about anything. He won’t fly off the handle and yell at me. He won’t guilt me into doing what’s right. We’re going to talk things out and I’m going to feel calm around him. I’ll do what’s right. I want to.”

It’s the same way with Jesus. Some people say they love and obey Jesus because He’s God, but that might be putting it backwards. It’s because He loved me and died for me that I obey Him. Put another way, I don’t obey in order to be saved. I obey because I’m saved.

That’s the relationship Jesus wants to have with us. That’s the relationship I want to have with my children.

I don’t want my sons to look at me and say, “I respect you because you’re the father figure of our home.” I want them to say, “Dad, you take care of me and nurture me. Thank you! I respect you. I’m not obeying you because I’m afraid of you. I’m obeying you because you have done so much for me. You care for me, and I love you.”

That’s the reality that I want for my family.

I’m going to wrap up this short series on drinking with a few words for the churches. You won’t want to miss that.  See you Saturday.

Drinking and Driving

Never drink alcohol to the point where you’re no longer sober-minded. My sons are going to know that.

When they ask me if it’s wrong to drink, I will say, “No. It’s not wrong. If you drink to drunkenness, son, that’s when it is wrong.”

I won’t tell them it’s a sin to drink because it’s not true. But it is against the law for them to drink. They can’t legally drink until they are twenty-one. I’ll make sure they know that!

When my sons turn sixteen, they might ask me, “Why can’t I have a beer?” I will tell them, “In this country, it’s not legal. The Bible says to obey the government, and this government doesn’t want you drinking at sixteen years of age.”

Why do I think they’ll ask me at sixteen? It’s the age when they will start driving. Do you remember driving at sixteen? It’s a challenge. You have to build your confidence. Sometimes you don’t know whether to make a left turn or a right turn. You’re not even confident enough to know whether to speed up or slow down at a yellow light. It’s really easy to make a wrong decision.

It’s against the law to drink and drive because the consequences of a wrong decision can be huge. You can kill someone. And teenagers are especially vulnerable to making poor decisions.

I’ll invite them to think about how hard it is to be sixteen and drive. And then I’ll ask, “What makes you think that you’re going to make the right decision at the wheel when you’re sixteen and drunk?”

The government says that when you turn twenty-one, you make adult decisions. An adult decision is a decision that can influence another person’s life. So at twenty-one, you can go ahead and drink. But if you drive drunk and someone dies, you can be jailed with adults, and you can be punished as an adult.

I know young people will argue. They’ll say, “I’m eighteen years old, so I should be able to make my own decisions.” Right. Because you’re good at that. At sixteen, seventeen, eighteen years old, you’re telling me that the decisions you make are made with a lot of wisdom. You’re telling me that you’ve been through life. You know exactly what you’re doing and why you’re doing it.

Well kids, I know you think you know everything. But you know what? You don’t! I know, because we all thought the same thing when we were sixteen. Or eighteen. I thought I had it all figured out too. I get it! I understand. But it’s not true. And when it comes to alcohol, too much of it can cause you to lose self-control, and this can be dangerous. It can get you or someone else killed.

That’s what I’ll tell my sons. I’ll tell them, and I’ll keep dialoging with them about it. Because when they turn twenty-one, they will no longer be in my control and I won’t be able to help them. They will be adults. They will be making adult decisions. I will still give them wisdom. I will still help them. But I can’t sit there and slap their hands if they have a beer or an alcoholic drink at twenty-one. They can do what they want, and I can’t go to battle for them.

That’s why I have to protect and prepare them now. More on this next time. See you Wednesday.

The Sin is Drunkenness

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23

Drinking is not a sin. The sin is drunkenness.

When you get drunk, you lose self-control. And when you lose self-control, a lot of bad things can happen.

Think about the connection between alcohol and homicide. If you drive drunk, you can kill another person. You can actually take the life of another human being. You become a murderer.

Think about the connection between alcohol and rape. College kids drink and girls get raped. Sometimes boys get raped too. Young men’s hormone levels are very high, and if they are drunk, then they’ve lost self-control. They don’t understand what “No” means. They don’t think clearly enough to get a “Yes.” Young people get raped.

Think about the angry drunks. They beat their wives. They beat their girlfriends. They beat their kids. They commit all that violence because they can’t contain their anger when they’re drunk.

It’s way too easy for a loss of self-control to cause pain. And drunkenness leads to loss of self-control. What’s worse, in these scenarios, we don’t only see sin. These are crimes, and crime means jail time.

Nothing good can come from drunkenness. Self-control is a fruit of the Spirit. You can’t do good things without self-control, and when you’re drunk, you don’t even control your own body. You’re falling down. You can’t walk straight!

You can’t make clear decisions. Without self-control, you don’t control your thoughts. You don’t control your words. You don’t control your own tongue! I’ve been around drunk people that just blurt out whatever’s on their mind. They have no filters. Some things aren’t meant to be said, so getting drunk sets you up for saying really painful things. You can cause a lot of pain.

The fear of the Lord brings wisdom. That’s what it does. When you represent Christ, you represent wisdom. You represent peace.

But when you’re drunk, you’re causing chaos. You can’t make peace when you can’t control your mind, your thoughts, your words, your tongue, your decisions, or your body. How is this representing Christ? It’s not. It’s causing chaos!

Drunkenness is a sin because when you’re drunk, you can’t live wisely. The Bible says those that hunger and thirst for righteousness will be filled. If you want to live a life that is fulfilled and fulfilling, you have to be sober-minded.

Make a decision that’s wise. Don’t drink to drunkenness.

Parents, churches, and governments have to help young people understand this. I’ll pick this up next time.

See you Saturday.

No Sin in Drinking

Is it a sin to drink alcohol? In some Christian homes, the answer is yes. But a problem arises when parents use this as a means of controlling their children. They don’t want their kids to drink, and they use guilt to discourage it.

I think that’s wrong. Not only that, I think that’s why you see kids rebel.

We’d all like to see an end to underage drinking, but shame is going to create more underage drinking than it can prevent. Here’s my idea. Why don’t we just go ahead and tell our kids that it’s okay to drink, just not when we are sixteen years old? I guarantee they’ll stop thinking about drinking. You can’t rebel against something that’s okay!

Kids are naturally rebellious, but I don’t believe that creating fear is the answer. I don’t believe in the notion that we should turn the drinking of alcohol into a sin, and I definitely don’t believe that we should guilt our kids through Christ.

Drinking is not a sin. The churches that teach this are wrong. Nowhere can you find it in scripture.

People forget this, and then make all these rules saying drinking is a sin. Then they don’t know what to do when they read about the first miracle. A lot of people just try not to listen. Or we forget!

But the first miracle happened, and it matters. Jesus turned water into wine. Jesus didn’t just make an okay wine, either. Jesus made the best wine you can ever have! I’m guessing the alcohol rate in that was probably not nil.

That doesn’t mean you don’t hear the arguments. One excuse people give is to say, “Back then there was non-alcoholic wine.” No there wasn’t! They didn’t have the technology back then to make non-alcoholic beverages. There was no filtering system. They sat in a winery and stomped on grapes. That’s what they did! And then they fermented the juice. That made wine, alcohol and all.

Another excuse people give is to say, “Okay, so the wine had alcohol in it, but Jesus didn’t drink.” Except that He did. In fact, He was called a drunk and a glutton! When He hung out with people, He drank their wine. For that, people started judging Him. They said, “Jesus is at that man’s house, and they are drinking. Jesus must be a drunk. He hangs out with people all the time, and he always drinks their wine.”

The Bible is conclusive. Jesus drank wine. And you know what? There’s nothing wrong with that!

Obviously if there’s a pastor out there slurring like crazy, rambling around, and falling over, then there’s a problem. His church will take some flak for that. James says that Christians are going to be held to a higher standard. But the standard is not drinking. The standard is Jesus! Jesus is the highest standard there is. He’s the King of Kings! He’s God in human flesh!

And He drank wine.

Drinking isn’t a sin, but drunkenness is. Next time I’ll tell you why. See you Wednesday.

Loving Our Kids Through Their Sins

A lot of parents are scared of how their kids’ behavior will reflect back on them. They worry about themselves when they should be worried about their kids.

“Oh my goodness!” a mom or dad might say. “My son was drunk and got caught drinking and driving! And everybody in the church knows! What are they going to think of me?”

“Oh my gosh!” they might say. “My daughter is pregnant! This looks bad. What are people at church going to say?”

This really shouldn’t be the issue. Our first thought should not be what people at church will think of us, or what they might say. It’s unfortunate, but I think churches have gotten to this point. They need to check themselves, and put their hearts in the right place.

God sent His son Jesus to walk among us. That’s so we could see His image. He told us, “This is the image that you should show people. Love one another as I have loved you.”

This is not an angry image. It’s not a judgmental image. It’s not a condemning image. When Jesus walked the streets, He loved. He loved everybody! He hung out with prostitutes, drunks, gluttons, and sinners. He was called a drunk and a glutton because those were the people He hung out with. And when they brought prostitutes before Him and said, “What do we do?” He said, “Hey, that’s not your job. Your job is not to condemn anybody. Your job is to love and encourage people to get better, right where they are.”

That’s the image of God. That’s the image we’re supposed to reflect. It’s not anyone’s job to condemn our young people. Your job is not to say, “Hey look, you got drunk, you deserve everything that happens to you.” No, no. That’s not your job.

Your job is to talk with them, in a relationship of trust. Go to them and say, “Let’s get down to the actual root of why. Why did you get drunk and then drive? Why did you sleep with your boyfriend and get pregnant? What was the purpose of doing it?”

At the same time we need to love and encourage them. We need to help them solve problems as they arise. We need to ask, “What are we going to do next? How are we going to handle life now?”

We need to be with our kids. We need to offer our love. We need to say, “Let’s work through this together.”

The issue for the church is not reputation. The church is not here to be worried about keeping up appearances. We only have to do one thing. We have to say, “Okay, you know what? Your daughter is pregnant. Well, we love your daughter. We want to bless your daughter. We don’t want to cast judgment onto her. We want to cast blessing onto her! And we hope that her child becomes a child that oozes the aroma of Christ. Sure it was a mistake to get pregnant, but Jesus forgives. So of course we forgive. We’re going to help.”

Do you know how much better life would be if we actually got into the habit of saying, “You know what? Everyone sins, but we are not going to condemn anyone. We are going to love each other through it.”

I think you would find less and less people sinning out of rebellion, if they knew they were loved out of purity.

I think that would change a lot of things.

See you Saturday.

Why So Judgmental?

Why are Christians so judgmental, when it’s obvious that God is all about love? This is a hard question to answer. It’s normal to judge. We all do it. We depend on judgment. We depend on a shared moral code. Distinguishing good from bad preserves the peace. It guides us in our common life, as a community and a nation.

But God tells us not to judge. God tells us to replace judgment with forgiveness. He tells us to love each other as He has loved us. How do we make sense of this?

Suppose you’re sitting in a park on a sunny day. Maybe you’re even reading your Bible. You happen to see a guy drinking a couple of six packs, and he’s getting pretty drunk. You know what the Bible says about drunkenness, so what do you do? It’s really hard not to say, “Man, that guy is a bad person. He needs to change. He needs to find Jesus.”

Well, maybe he does need to find Jesus! Maybe you are right. But before you judge him to be a bad person, think about Jesus. What would Jesus do? I think He would look at the guy and say, “I see his heart. He was born into sin. Who wasn’t? Now he’s sinning. Who isn’t? I think I’ll go talk to him. I’ll go love on him.”

That’s what Jesus does. He doesn’t look at the guy and say, “What a bad person.” Jesus looks at the guy with love and understanding.

If that’s what Jesus does, then why should a Christian, a follower of Jesus, look down on the guy? Some Christians even judge a guy and then expect his admiration. I’ll let you in on something. It doesn’t work.

Some people treat their kids the same way. They drag them to church. They tell them, “You’re bad! You need to do better!” Kids hear that, and guess what? They feel bad!

This is terrible. It’s terrible that kids live in fear of their parents. It turns into fear of God, and I’m not talking about reverential fear. I’m talking about actual, scared fear. They will look at God and literally be scared of His judgment. “Mom and Dad think I’m bad. God must think I’m bad too.”

Teaching children to fear just wounds them. It drives them away from God. That’s not what we want! We want our children’s hearts to fill with love! We want them to love themselves and love their neighbors! But love only happens when children experience God’s love. Not their parents’ judgment.

Let’s go back to the guy in the park, the one you were tempted to judge. Judging him does not help him. It hurts him. It pushes him further away from God. It doesn’t help you either. Judging others hurts you because it draws you away from grace and into a judgment mentality.

Here’s what I try to do. I see that guy in the park, and I think, “Well, in my view, what he’s doing is wrong. I’m not going to go and get drunk with him. Does he need Jesus? Yes. But I’m not going to bring him to Jesus by smacking him in the back of the head with a Bible. He’s not going to love Jesus because I’m standing there, telling him he’s wrong.”

How about just loving on the guy?