Here’s the thing about wine

I was totally planning on dedicating a whole post today on how I reached the 25,000 word mark on my NaNoWriMo novel today thanks to some wonderful advice from a friend (“Have an explosion”) and how in a world without Starbucks, McDonalds has become my coffee shop writing place. Since everyone around me is speaking in rapid Spanish, I can easily tune everything out and write over 4,000 words in two hours. And so I was totally going to write about all of that. Then someone shared this on Facebook along with the comment that “[alcohol] ruins lives and families” and instead of posted a comment so long it needs paragraph indents, I decided to just blog about it. I would also like to state that my personal convictions in no way reflect or represent the convictions or beliefs of my current employer.

So here are the reasons why I don’t drink alcohol:

1. I’ve signed a contract saying that I won’t

2. In this particular cultural context, drinking alcohol would negatively affect my testimony and I’ve already got enough stacked up against me in that arena just by showing up in my own skin

3. It tastes yucky and makes my belly hurt

4. I don’t like the fact that something I drink could change the way I act or feel

Notice that none of those reasons are a Bible verse. Mostly because you can’t find a Bible verse that says, “Don’t drink alcohol, it ruins home and lives,”* but also because I try really hard no to use singular Bible verses to prove my own human points. These are the reasons why I have chosen not to drink alcohol at this particular time in my life. It is very unlikely that these particular reasons will apply to anybody else.

In fact, the more I think about, number 4 doesn’t really even apply to me. I certainly like the way that a Cherry Lime-Aid from Sonic during Happy Hour can change the way I feel, and I love the way a cold Coke can make me feel after a rough day. So I take that one back.

This whole post started because a bunch of bearded men drank wine (which reminds me of a much different story that also involved bearded men (the disciples were bearded, right? historians know these things, right?) drinking wine).

Oh geeze there’s just so much I want to say I can’t decide where to start.

Alright, so the bearded fellows. Just in case you’ve never heard of Duck Dynasty here’s what happened:

Duck hunters make duck call instrument. Duck hunters patent duck call instrument and make millions. Get a TV show. (It’s basically the Beverly Hillbillies.) Duck hunters profess Christ. Duck hunters make some wine. Family Ministries un-invite duck hunter from benefit.

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“Jesus removed our sins and guarantees we can be raised from the dead. I’m still waiting on someone to enlighten me on what story beats that one.” – Phil Robertson, patriach of the Duck Dynasty family
(Click the picture to read an article at The Christian Post about Phil’s story in his own words)

Now I could certainly state the obvious. Jesus drank wine. His first recorded miracle was turning water into wine.

Also, the statement that “[alcohol] ruins lives and families” is on par with the whole “guns don’t kill people, people kill people” campaign. If guns don’t kill people, then alcohol doesn’t ruin families. Certainly many a life and family has been torn apart because someone decided to use alcohol without using wisdom. Just as certainly many a life and family has been torn apart because someone decided to use a gun without using wisdom. Just as certainly many a life and family has been torn apart because someone decided to use a car without using wisdom. Or to use words without wisdom. Or to use their bodies without wisdom.

Things like alcohol and guns and cars and bodies are not inherently bad. What matters is how we, the human beings with the brains and the hearts and the conscious thought process, choose to use these things.

If you are someone who struggles with drinking too much and making unwise decisions, then by all means, stay away from alcohol. If you are concerned about how alcohol might affect your parenting or your children, then by all means, keep alcohol out of your house.

In the same vein, if you are someone who struggles with Facebook-envy and comparing yourself to others, then by all means, stay away from Facebook.

If you are someone who struggles with lust and masturbation and pornography, then by all means, stay away from movies with nudity and the back rooms of video stores.

If you are someone who struggles with gossip and slander, then by all means, stay away from people and situations that make it easy for you to give in to that temptation.

To make a blanket statement, to try to make your convictions the world’s convictions, is to project your own personal struggles onto everyone else in a prideful attempt to make your own sins feel more normal. 

I remember my dad drinking a beer every night when I was growing up. That beer never ever  negatively affected any interaction, conversation, or relationship any of us had with my dad. Not even once. To assume that because there is also beer in my fridge must mean that there isn’t Jesus in my home is just as heart-wrenching as assuming that I am not a Christian because I have my ear pierced more times than you do.

There are universal truths. I believe that, I do. I believe the Bible is true, and that it applies to everyone. I also believe the Bible should be read as a whole book – which takes some time and study and commitment and discussion and lots of prayer and listening. It’s very dangerous to take single verses and apply them to situations, especially when we remember that the Bible was written thousands of years ago to people living in a very different cultural and religious context than most of us find ourselves in (“most of us” meaning the Americans and Dominicans I hang out with).

None of that negates the Bible’s divine inspiration and inherent truthfullness

What all of that does mean, is that it’s important to understand and grasp the over-arching truths of the Bible, rather than grabbing on to one specific verse written to a specific group of people addressing a certain problem and never letting go to see the richness of the rest of the text.

Just this afternoon I read about the greatest commandment in Matthew 22. The Bible says,

“But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. ‘Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?’ And he said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.'” – Matthew 22:34-40, ESV

Love God, love people. LGLP. “On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” Basically, if you are truly loving God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and if you are truly loving your neighbor as yourself, then you will naturally be fulfilling and obeying all of the other commandments, because this is what God is all about. LGLP.

I’m not saying that it isn’t important to know and understand the many other commandments of God, but I’m saying that if we’re not careful we miss the point. Like the Sadducees, who tried to trick Jesus in Matthew 22:23-33, right before the Pharisees asked Him about the greatest commandment, we knit-pick and split hairs and wonder about the specifics, completely missing the point.

So when we make the gospel about how many earrings (or tattoos) we have or what kind of music our church sings or whether or not we drink alcohol, we completely miss the point.

The point is, God is a God of the living, not of the dead.

The point is, heaven is coming and we have to tell people about it.

The point is, what’s right for you might not be right for me.

The point is, wisdom and discernment, guys!

The point is, Love God, Love People.

Whether they drink wine or not!

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*In order to do my due diligence, I started reading through all of the occurrences of “wine” in the Bible (which represents alcohol, as the word alcohol is not used in the Bible, at least not in the ESV translation) and writing a bit about the ones that were important or could be interpreted as blanket statements against Christ-followers drinking wine, but it turns out there are over 200 occurrences and I’m tired, so I will finish that topical study at a later date. I know you’ll all be waiting with bated breath for that post.

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