Can Christians Drink?
Romans 14:2,3,20 One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats… It is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats.
Occasionally, I find that I make others uncomfortable about alcohol, which is a little ironic, since I am the one with the problem. Apparently, as I have been through treatment and am outspoken about sobriety, some people feel judged by me when it comes to drinking. This is of course, never my purpose. Alcohol is one of those gray areas, in which there is honest disagreement among Christians.
Paul, in this passage, discussed those gray areas which are not directly addressed in the Bible. Elsewhere, we are told not to be drunk with wine (Eph. 5:18) but Jesus also made wine (John 2), so alcohol cannot be evil in itself. With such gray areas, Paul proposed two criteria to decide whether or not a thing is wrong.
First though, this question is always about me. Paul says these are personal decisions in which we are not to judge others. Let us not pass judgment on one another (v. 13). The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God (v. 22). If I read this passage to find cause to judge, I am missing the point of Paul’s words. This question is about my faith. I may of course, be required to have boundaries at times. Avoidance of judging does not mean I must allow my kids to drink. Likewise, I am not required to overlook an intoxicated coworker.
In general, though, it is none of my business if a person drinks or not. I know many who can have a beer with no apparent ill effects. It does not bother me at all if they do so in my presence and frankly, it is none of my business. I am not to project my life defects upon others. I am responsible for my own issues.
The first criteria then, is whether or not drinking is wrong for me. Do I feel God wants me not to drink? If so, then drinking will always distance me from God. I once used passages like this to justify my consumption. If I find myself looking for Bible verses to excuse a behavior, it is a good indicator that I am doing something which offends my conscience. If I insist on engaging in such behavior anyway, I am pursuing self to the detriment of my relationship with God.
I must honestly ask myself these questions: Has my drinking caused me some destruction (DWIs, relationship/work problems, injuries)? Have I tried to cut back and failed? Do others have a problem with my drinking? Do I need alcohol to function? Do I withdraw when I do not have it? Do I feel guilty about my drinking? If I answer yes to any of these questions, then yes, it is wrong for me to drink and I need to stop. If though, I have no problem with alcohol and I feel that God honestly does not care, then it may not be a problem for me. Unless…
The second criteria Paul proposed, is that I look beyond myself to see if my drinking is a problem for my neighbor. If exercising my freedom causes another to participate in the same behavior to his or her destruction, then I am partially responsible for that destruction. In such a situation, my love for my neighbor must override my love for alcohol. If my love for alcohol is greater than that for my neighbor, I have a problem and I need to stop.
It is true that I am free to drink and enjoy the good things this life has to offer. Physical pleasures of this life are not my ultimate goal however. The kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (v. 17). God is always the goal. Does drinking, or any behavior, distract me or anyone else from the pursuit of God? If the answer is yes, then the behavior is destructive and needs to go. Daily, I am to abandon my destruction for the pursuit of God.