Should Christians drink alcohol? Is it permissible in moderation or prohibited altogether?
These questions linger within certain conversations and contexts, especially concerning pastors and church leaders.
Let me begin by saying my wife and I do not drink.
Not even occasionally or socially.
I do not wear that as a glimmering badge of holiness or a pharisaical beating of the chest.
We just don’t do it. I’ll go into the reasons why in this post, but it is probably not what you’d expect.
However, I have dear Christian friends – some in church leadership, others not – who drink. I have sat at many dinner tables with them and enjoyed their company as they drank whatever. Their behavior and indulgence did not affect our time together, and I look forward to their fellowship in the future.
Still, I will not participate in drinking alcohol.
My reasons are perhaps more practical than theological.
Here they are:
1) My family tree.
My biological father, most of his siblings, my grandparents, and on up the family line were prone to excessive drinking. My father (who was absent my entire life) developed cirrhosis of the liver from his alcoholism. My mother shares stories about how strong drink changed him, taking an otherwise docile man and transforming him into a destructive abuser. He was gripped by a vicious alcohol dependency that he could never shake.
I know enough about the disease of addiction that I’m not sure whether or not the gene was passed on to me. I am not willing to roll the dice either; I’m convinced I have as much fun without alcohol as others do with it. I don’t feel I’m missing out on some great experience because I abstain, and for me, it is not worth the gamble.
2) My kids.
I prefer my children not drink either, for the same reason I mentioned above. Yes, once they are adults, they make their own decisions. I get that. But at this stage, mom and dad are charting the course for them, and I cannot possess the moral authority to forbid something if I personally participate.
3) My responsibility.
I pastor in the southeast United States, where Christians predominately avoid alcohol. Leaders who drink create undue skepticism concerning their character, morality, and fitness to lead. Whether that is right or wrong is irrelevant, it is the cultural reality nonetheless. As a leader, my responsibilities toward the wider church outweigh any personal liberties I might feel I have.
Paul highlights this idea in his Corinthian letter, as freshly converted believers were stumbling over eating food offered to idols. Paul shares his philosophy (idols do not really exist, because only our God is the real god), then pivots to his greater responsibility – “if what I eat causes my brother or sister to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause them to fall (1 Cor 8:13 NIV).” As a leader, my responsibility supersedes personal liberties.
So there is my stance on drinking.
I do not judge those who drink.
I don’t think I am more holy because I abstain.
What are your thoughts?