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About Drinking “Grape Juice”

Last week, I saw this tweet from Out of Ur:

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With a title like that, who wouldn’t check it out? You can check out the blog post here. The blog post linked to a LeadershipJounal.net article entitled “Trouble Brewing.”

[UPDATE ON MAY 15, 2009 - Here is a follow up post on Out of Ur about the LeadershipJournal.net article.]

Now, I don’t know what your view on alcohol is. It isn’t my intention to change your mind or make you agree with my point of view. I am simply asking you to maybe struggle through your views on drinking and how to communicate with the kids and families you minister to.

Up until a few years ago, I did not drink. I grew up with the expectation that most of us who grew up in evangelical homes that it was not right/good for us to drink. It’s not that drinking was a sin, but a “good” Christian didn’t drink. As I got older, I continued to abstain from alcohol because the only reason I had to drink was to not break the rule against it. I wasn’t one to break a rule just because.

I was taken aback, sort of like O’Brien in the Out of Ur blog post, when upon moving to Canada I was offered wine, beer and other drinks at the homes of those from my church. It wasn’t that I thought they were doing something wrong; I hadn’t been in a culture of Christians where alcohol wasn’t something that was abstained from.

In the coming months after self evaluation and counsel and prayer, I came to the conclusion, as did my wife, that continuing to follow the “no drinking rule” would be disingenuous for me since it was just that… a rule. I never was taught nor even believed that drinking was a sin. Drunkenness was wrong, but I was never taught that the Bible spoke against drinking that did not end up as drunkenness. I was simply taught is was something “we” didn’t do. For the longest time “we” didn’t so I had no issue with the rule. Now, that I lived in a culture that did not have the same hang ups that my previous culture did, I felt that it would be Pharisaical to hold onto that “no drinking rule” I grew up with.

Do I drink now? Yes. I’ve discovered that I can enjoy alcohol in moderation… something that I was given the impression wasn’t possible. Do I flaunt my new-found freedom? I think that is the wrong question. The better question is, “Do I continue to live a holistically surrendered life to Christ?” The answer to that is, “Yes.”

What do I teach my own children about alcohol? They know that, just like everything else in life, too much of it isn’t a good thing because you loose self control. They know that there are people who do get addicted to it. They also know that it is possible to be responsible and drink in moderation.

Again, if you do not drink, I am not asking you to start drinking or even agree that moderation is better than completely abstaining from alcohol. What I am asking, though, is that you consider taking more than a simple “just say no” approach to alcohol. You need to have better reasons than “we just don’t” or “it’s the right thing to do” or “you could end up getting drunk and become an alcoholic.”

Most of all, we need to learn discernment… and we need to pass that on to our children. There are many issues out there that we as Christians come out on different sides and neither side is more right than the other. We need to give our own children and the children and families we minister to the tools and filters they need to hear from God do what God is asking them to do.

What do you do with the issue of drinking? What is your church’s official stance? Your denomination’s stance?

If you are in a church that officially abstains from alcohol, what do you do with parishioners who do not abstain?

Do you agree it’s more important to teach discernment about issues like alcohol over teaching a set of rules?

8 Responses to “About Drinking “Grape Juice””

  1. Jeff Selph May 13, 2009 at 1:19 pm #

    I grew up as a Baptist, and I was taught that consuming any alcohol was wrong. Reading the Bible cleared that up for me, though. Drunkenness is wrong, moderate drinking is not. I, however, still do not drink. My biological grandfather was an alcoholic, and I don't really want to test those waters. I have an addictive personality as it is.

    Our church's official position is that drinking in moderation is okay. I know of staff members that do drink moderately, and I don't care. I don't for the reason given above, not because I think it's a sin.

    And yes, I agree that discernment is more important.

  2. Matt Guevara May 13, 2009 at 6:12 pm #

    Well, you got some comments going on my Facebook from this – from my MOM! Thanks a lot Henry! Personally, I choose not to drink. I do so because I've seen many examples of alcoholism in my extended family. I have friends who drink. I have volunteers who drink. My church's stance is that social drinking is acceptable. I think that when we look to Scripture, we can find support for this position. I have a bigger problem with Christians or staff members swearing that I do with them drinking, why is that?

    • Henry Zonio May 14, 2009 at 5:56 am #

      Ha! So sorry. That's why you don't link your FB status with Twitter :) Thanks for your added comments.

  3. Henry Zonio May 14, 2009 at 5:55 am #

    Ha! That's why you don't link your FB status with Twitter :) Thanks for your comments.

  4. jonathan May 16, 2009 at 4:12 am #

    You bring up an interesting point. As a child, those that drank alcohol were demonized and I could NOT see how they could ever know Jesus. As a pastor that is forbidden from alcohol, but desperately wanting my children to NOT grow up with the same position I was in as a child; I find myself in a rough spot… I believe they call this being between a rock and a hard place.

  5. John M May 18, 2009 at 3:10 am #

    An old friend who did not drink told me she chose not to because of all the social ills caused by drinking (or excessive drinking). In a world where the negative impacts of drinking are so severe (the police chief estimated he could lay off 75% of his force if no one drank), she felt that she needed to take a firm stand against it by not drinking at all. This was one of the most understandable reasons I have encountered for never drinking. However, like another commenter posted, the Bible does seem to allow for drinking in moderation (though not everyone will agree on that point). While I respect and honour her point of view, I also got the strong impression she expected that same of all Christians, which I felt shifted things to a Pharisaical approach. I think the better approach would be Paul's regarding the "weak" and "strong" Christians – if you think it is a sin, then it is a sin for you. Those who think it is a sin should not judge their brothers who drink, and those who don't think it is a sin should not look down those who do not.

    • Henry Zonio May 18, 2009 at 6:54 am #

      great thoughts. i agree that we need to make sure that we when it comes to alcohol we need to follow our convictions and not look down on those who may disagree.

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