The Impact of Just One Drink
And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. Galatians 2:13
I’ve been sober for seven years now and I’ve got to admit that occasionally, I think maybe I’ve recovered well enough that I could just have one drink. Alcohol wasn’t my primary addiction and so, I have those times when I think it might be harmless to indulge. Some of you know how ridiculous that sounds and others of you will think that it’s probably not that big of deal. It is a big deal though and it is absolutely absurd for me to entertain that thought.
Beyond the fact that I’d be ignoring the advice of all those who’s lived successfully in recovery and beyond the years of sobriety I’d be throwing away, is the negative impact I’d have on those around me. I help facilitate a weekly recovery group of others with varying lengths of sober time. Imagine what the effect on their recovery would be if I walked in one day and announced that I was drinking again. It’s OK. I’ve discovered I can have just one or two. My self-deception and relapse would become the lie that encouraged them to relapse as well. My selfish behavior would spill into the lives of those around me, wreaking destruction in all our lives. I don’t live in a vacuum and whether I like it or not, my behavior impacts those around me.
Though it didn’t involve alcohol, this was Paul’s issue with Peter in today’s passage. In the story, Peter had abandoned his gentile Christian friends once certain Jewish Christians showed up. Paul chastised him, not only for his prejudice, but also for leading others to commit the same sin. As a spiritual leader, when he did something evil, others emulated him. Now, he was not only responsible for his own sin, but also for contributing to the sin of those who looked to him for spiritual guidance.
We may or may not be church leaders, but our behavior affects those around us. We live in community and our actions have a ripple effect on others. When we live only for ourselves, we likely encourage others to do likewise. Then, we bear some responsibility for their failures. We can’t relapse or recover for anyone else, but we can push them in one direction or the other. We can use our influence for evil or we can use it for good. If we daily abandon the old life, living for the new one, others will see that too, and some will be encouraged to follow, doing the same.