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July 28, 2010

The 1st Time I ever Drank

Obviously this is not about simply drinking, but about "drinking" as I would have stated it growing up.  That was something that "those people" did because if you were a good Christian, you weren't going to be involved in that nasty business.  That was for bad people and sinners because if someone saw me drink, they might never give their life to Christ after all.  This is not to sound condescending, but this is truly what I believed.  I remember times I would argue with people as hard as possible in order to convince them they should never drink.  The main verse that I always used was about being a stumbling block to other people.  I could cause someone to stumble in their faith, or never find faith at all, and I didn't want that on my conscience.  Then I went to Vacation Bible School.
 
I remember sitting in this church with all the other adults on family night before the kids had made their way into the room.  There was this recording going of a man speaking and he just kept talking about alcohol and how bad it was.  Some of my favorites were, "God HATES booze.  Beer, wine, strong drink...God hates all of it."  Later he even said, "The wine in the Bible was just grape juice."  Obviously, this guy had not read the Bible because I've never heard of anyone getting drunk off grape juice.  I don't believe for a second that Jesus turned water to grape juice.

That's when it really hit me how I was living a completely legalistic lifestyle.  My entire faith could have been summed up with the phrase, "For by grace you have been saved through faith....and _________."  That list included not cursing, not listening to music that wasn't Christian enough, not drinking and many other rules.

One that gets me is the story of Jesus turning water into wine.  Hopefully you know the setting, but Jesus is at a wedding feast and they run out of wine.  Remember that these people were partiers and these celebrations went on for days so they knew how to plan for them.  These guys manage to run out of wine, so at the urging of his mother,  Jesus has men fill these large containers with water and turned it into wine.  When they take it to the master of the banquet and he tastes it, he says in John 2:10, "Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now."  So this verse implies that they had already gone through the choice wine, AND they'd gone through the cheaper wine, and were now getting the BEST wine.  One could assume they didn't have much wine to begin with or some similar argument, but if you know anything about Jewish celebrations, the more likely scenario is that people had already had their fill of drink...and now Jesus gave them even more.  


In 1 Timothy 5, Paul instructs Timothy to drink wine instead of water because of some sort of stomach issues.  I don't know what this all means necessarily.  I certainly don't think it is OK to be getting drunk or anything.  It just seems that as followers of Christ, we have the freedom to participate.  We don't have to sit on the sidelines trying to make sure we don't break the rules.  On one side of the coin, you have the opportunity to say, "Look at me and what I don't do!"  but on the other side, we can show what it means to have freedom in Christ and to be responsible with it.  We can sit around as people like C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien did and share a pipe and a pint of beer and talk about theology or life or whatever is on our minds.  


Many may disagree with me, and I'm OK with that.  I was 23 years old when I sat in that church and heard that recording.  It was a Wednesday night and I went and bought and drank my first alcohol on that same Friday.  I don't want my faith to be defined by what I avoid, but rather what I do.  I'd rather Jesus be known (through me) as someone who helped little kids through Compassion or Invisible Children, or prevents abuse, slavery and sexual exploitation through International Justice Mission....or offers to cook a meal and have an open ear for a neighbor who is hurting...buying some gas or groceries for someone who is struggling...showing love and compassion to people who society says aren't worthy of it.  I can follow the "rules" my entire life and never have an impact on anyone, or I can live out my faith and allow the Holy Spirit to change lives through me by BEING Jesus to them.

4 comments:

Matt Coulter said...

Love, love, love this! Especially this part: "I don't want my faith to be defined by what I avoid, but rather what I do. I'd rather Jesus be known (through me) as someone who helped little kids through Compassion or Invisible Children, or prevents abuse, slavery and sexual exploitation through International Justice Mission....or offers to cook a meal and have an open ear for a neighbor who is hurting...buying some gas or groceries for someone who is struggling...showing love and compassion to people who society says aren't worthy of it. I can follow the "rules" my entire life and never have an impact on anyone, or I can live out my faith and allow the Holy Spirit to change lives through me by BEING Jesus to them."

Awesome. Well said!

Oh, and on a side note -- the word for "too much to drink" in John 2 is "methyo"... that word appears 7 times in the New Testament. The other 6 times, it's translated just flat out as "drunk". My guess is that somewhere along the line, Bible translators got really uncomfortable with Jesus serving alcohol to drunk people and decided to change this verse - and only this verse! - to say "too much to drink".

Why can't Christians just be honest: Jesus served alcohol to drunk people. The more we wrestle with that, the better we understand God I think!

Whitney said...

Good post. I agree that our theology is not what we say but what we do.

Matt Coulter said...

Love, love, love this! Especially this part: "I don't want my faith to be defined by what I avoid, but rather what I do. I'd rather Jesus be known (through me) as someone who helped little kids through Compassion or Invisible Children, or prevents abuse, slavery and sexual exploitation through International Justice Mission....or offers to cook a meal and have an open ear for a neighbor who is hurting...buying some gas or groceries for someone who is struggling...showing love and compassion to people who society says aren't worthy of it. I can follow the "rules" my entire life and never have an impact on anyone, or I can live out my faith and allow the Holy Spirit to change lives through me by BEING Jesus to them."

Awesome. Well said!

Oh, and on a side note -- the word for "too much to drink" in John 2 is "methyo"... that word appears 7 times in the New Testament. The other 6 times, it's translated just flat out as "drunk". My guess is that somewhere along the line, Bible translators got really uncomfortable with Jesus serving alcohol to drunk people and decided to change this verse - and only this verse! - to say "too much to drink".

Why can't Christians just be honest: Jesus served alcohol to drunk people. The more we wrestle with that, the better we understand God I think!

Blankcheck said...

Jon I completely agree with you. Seems as if our stories are quite similar. I didn't have my first sip of alcohol until I was 22. Very similar in how we were both brought up and our decision to do so for the first time. I started following you on twitter, always good to network and connect with a brother in Christ who shares similar views on Jesus! Thanks man.