I’m drinking a Vodka on the rocks while I write this. You may not think that means anything, but, oh, it so does.
My wife and I got invited to this roaring 20’s party. Frankly, I’m not even sure what they hell that is. It’s a theme party, I guess, and so I’ll have to do some homework to really look the part. The only thing I can think of is to slick my hair back and wear suspenders, but I have no suspenders… and, sadly, no hair.
But those things are distant seconds to another issue that will be a part of this event: alcohol consumption. Will be permissible?
It’s a Church party. Or maybe I should say a “Churches party” because there will be several represented, not all of them okay with believers consuming alcohol. In essence, what was supposed to be a party could quickly turn into one of those gossip riddled, judgment fests, wherein the climax of the evening isn’t the limbo or suggestive Pictionary, but a crowd silencing conversation consisting of, “I think your choice to consume a Bud LIght is a stumbling block for the rest of us believers.”
Now you know why I started off this chat the way I did: I drink. I like beer. I like the feel of a good buzz. I don’t like to be drunk and I don’t like it when my head hurts and I don’t think consuming to much booze is wise or holy, but I do believe in a God whose first miracle was turning water into some of the best wine ever to grace the lips of man, at a party where all the people in attendance were already wasted. I will be drinking at this party. Not to much, mind you, but enough to feel like I’m at a party.
I really hate the stumbling block argument. I have a brother who is an alcoholic who has been sober for several years now. I never drink around the guy, but he’s told me that he knows I drink, and it doesn’t bother him. He realizes that other people in the world consume alcohol and he’s not on some glorious mission to stop all of them from doing so. He doesn’t have too. There is a veritable army of fundamentalist Christians out there happy to do it for him. Christians who’ve never had an issue with alcohol themselves, but are convinced that the world around them should go back to the age of prohibition. These are the people that will accuse another believer of being a stumbling block, even if it means ending a party to do it.
The thing that bothers me about it is, if you’re drinking responsibly around a person who doesn’t have a drinking problem, you’re not a stumbling block. What sin are you causing them to stumble into, the sin of being irritated? They believe alcohol is bad in and of itself and thus they are peeved when they see someone else consuming it. That frustration, which anyone else could let go off and move on from (especially after a few relaxing drinks) gets sharpened into an eternal sticking point all because the Bible mentions strong and weak Christians and how they can get tripped up by association with such evil looking beverages.
At this party, if things go wrong, it will not be because of a believer consuming another into sin, it will be because of holy warfare justified by the mishandling of a scripture. A difference of spiritual opinion that will lead to a debate, which in turn will justify why church parties should never have Satan’s cough syrup when really church parties just need smart Christians. So frustrating! And we wonder why people outside our faith point and laugh at us as hypocrites and buffoons— we totally are sometimes!
After seeing all the damage a person addicted to alcohol can do to a family, I’ll be the first to tell you that I’d never consume it in the presence of an alcoholic or anyone who struggles with such issues. But don’t mistake struggling with the consumption of alcohol with struggling with a difference of opinion, even if it’s on spiritual matters. Christians don’t have to agree on everything. In fact, I’d say the most damaging thing about drinking in the church is the most damaging thing behind any other act that has the appearance of sin—the hard hearts and graceless lives scrambling to make a loving faith as coldly black and white as possible.