>When people find out that I don’t drink they tend to fall into two camps, those who worry for a moment until they realize that I am not yet of legal drinking age and relax upon assuming that I will be drinking soon enough, and those who congratulate me for not giving in to the evils of alcohol. If I explain my position on alcohol any further, though, both camps tend to look at me with a wary eye.
The first camp becomes distressed because they discover that I do not just abstain from alcohol temporarily because I cannot yet imbibe it legally (although that would be enough to prevent me from doing so), but permanently as I have committed to not drinking alcohol (with two reservations, which I will address further down).
The second camp is unhappy because they soon learn that I am not abstaining from alcohol because I think it is inherently sinful and forbidden by God.
At that point, I usually hope that a complete explanation of my position will ease the tension with both camps.
Let me explain. I believe that drinking alcohol before you are legally permitted to do so is sinful because we are to obey the laws of our government unless they contradict the laws of God. Upon reaching the legal age, however, I do not think that consuming alcohol is inherently sinful. I realize this will ruffle some feathers among those who believe that such consumption is explicitly forbidden in Scripture, but I am thoroughly convinced through my study of the Bible that it is not: for example, wine was an acceptable offering to God in the Old Testament; abundant wine production was a blessing promised by God to His people; Jesus’ first miracle was that of turning water into wine; Jesus used wine to implement the practice of sharing the communion meal; and Paul told Timothy to drink a little wine to help with his health problems. Saying that drinking alcohol is not inherently sinful does not mean that it is never sinful, however. The Bible soundly condemns drunkenness again and again. Drunkenness can lead to violence, sexual impurity, poverty, as well as woe, sorrow, strife, complaints, needless bruises, and bloodshot eyes. Paul directed Timothy not to appoint overseers or deacons who are given to drunkenness. Similarly, a person with a family or personal history of alcoholism is at least unwise to drink alcohol.
So why have I committed to abstaining from alcohol if I do not believe it is inherently sinful? I abstain for the sake of those who do drink and those who think it is sinful. The American culture is generally not one of moderation with regard to alcohol but instead one of abstinence or abuse. I hope to see a liberating moderation become the norm, however, and want to be an agent in bringing about that change. If I were to drink moderately and argue that moderate drinking was not sinful, I would be disregarded by those who believe all drinking to be sinful because I would be benefiting from my belief. My hope is that I can maintain a certain level respect from both camps through my stance and be used to bring about reconciliation.
I mentioned above that I have two reservations with my commitment to abstain from alcohol, and those deserve mention. The first is that I will drink wine when it is served as part of the Lord’s Supper, because I could never in good conscience refuse that which was instituted by my God. The second is only a potential reservation that requires more consideration, but is loosely that I may take alcohol if I am ever abroad and could not help but offend my hosts if I were to refuse it.
After laying out my stance, I realize that this may not prove a terribly helpful post for others. What would I exhort my brothers and sisters in Christ to do with regard to alcohol, no matter which camp they are in? I would have them study this passage, and have those who enjoy alcohol in moderation do so in a way that does not put a stumbling block before those who cannot, and those who cannot believe that they can drink righteously refrain from condemning those who do in word or thought. Argue with one another about this in love, each seeking to come to know what Scripture teaches and to teach the other, but do not allow alcohol to drive a wedge through the Body of Christ.