My last post resulted in a couple of conversations about drinking alcohol. While this was not my intent, I am happy to continue the conversation.
I occasionally buy alcohol, but I never drink it. There are some stews that simply taste better when slow cooked in red wine and so I am inclined to add it as an ingredient. Of course, by the time dinner is served the alcohol is long gone. I suppose I would be considered a teetotaler, except I prefer coffee to tea. But for what the term implies, it fits me quite well—I don’t partake in alcoholic drink of any kind.
I was raised in a dry home and I raise my children in the same fashion. But this is not to say that I have never tasted or swallowed alcohol. There was a period of time, when I had reached my maturity that I did drink. My consumption was modest and I don’t believe I was sinning, and yet I chose to stop.
The conviction to abstain happened through a course of events. I was counseling a couple of men (independently of one another) who were both battling with alcoholism. Their lives were pitiful! In the midst of this I was reading a novel that chronicled the life of an alcoholic. He was equally pitiful. Then I learned of a respected pastor in a neighboring city that had gradually succumbed to alcohol abuse. Rounding off these events was a memory of my father. He once said, on the matter of drinking, “if you can give me a written guarantee that it won’t become a problem, I will drink—but since you can’t, I won’t.”
Was it the combined weight of these incidents that made up my mind? They certainly informed my decision, but the ultimate influencer was unseen. More and more, I felt convicted by the Holy Spirit that He wanted me to abstain. Believing that this was His will for my life, I chose to quit. Living dry is a matter of obedience for me.
Is abstinence the Holy Spirit’s preference for every person? I don’t think so. Throughout the Old and New Testaments there are positive references to the drinking of wine (Deut 14: 26, John 2:10). If alcohol were such an affront to God one would expect an explicit prohibition from Him. Moderate consumption seems to be an acceptable part of the holy life. However, if this approved substance is abused it becomes sin. There is no place for drunkenness in the holy life!
(Luke 21:34, Eph. 5:18, Gal 5:21, 1 Pet 4:3)
Is abstinence my preference for my children? Yes. I will use my influence to hopefully persuade my children to live as their father and grandfather have. Since I can’t write them a guarantee against addiction and abuse, I would rather they simply avoided alcohol altogether. It’s a matter of risk management in my thinking—the benefits of drinking just don’t offset the risks involved. As Paul writes, “All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything.” (1 Cor. 6:12, ESV). When my little ones reach adulthood they will have liberty in this matter, but until then I will encourage them to choose as I have.
Does my choice prejudice me against those who drink? No. I am quite comfortable when others drink moderately in my presence, and I hope my abstinence doesn’t make them uncomfortable either. This is a matter of Christian liberty, and we are free to choose as the Spirit leads us. In all things, let us live obediently to the one who owns us.