“Did you hear about the state of ….. at Coll beach, I thought they were meant to be a Christian?”
This is not the first time I heard that dreaded sentence, it is repeated most years. A sentence that (from the outside looking in) is questioning the truth of the person’s claims of salvation. A sentence that places doubt on the work of God in that individual’s life.
Before we go any further I want to make a few things clear:
I do not think it is wrong for a Christian to drink alcohol, to say otherwise would be to add to Scripture. That is, providing the Christian does not get drunk (which is a sin), and that they are above the legal drinking age. [Eph5:18]
I do not think that if a Christian does get drunk, or if they drink underage that they somehow lose their salvation, if it is genuine then – like any other Christian – that salvation is eternal, and based on the finished work of Jesus. And it is not somehow ‘removed’ by them doing something silly, if that was the case then not one of us would remain saved for any length of time! [Jhn10:18,Phil1:6]
The issue is not really only about Christians getting drunk, it is a wider issue, are we acting in a way that will honour God? Both by encouraging our brothers and sisters, and by being a good witness to those around us?
The reality of the situation is that most of it boils down to basic common sense and understanding that we are to live as lights in the darkness.[Eph5:8]
Understanding that we have been saved to live differently to those around us, this is not an ‘additional extra’, it is part of who we now are. We belong to God, we have been washed and cleansed and set apart to serve him, our lifestyle must reflect this. [1Peter2:9]
So how does this look when we try to live this out in the world?
In all our actions we have to consider, will this bring glory to God?
> Will this help and encourage our brothers and sisters (Or will my actions cause them to stumble/ be confused?) [Rom14:12-16]
>How will this affect my witness to a world that is looking at me to point them to God? (Will my actions give them reason to be amazed at God’s saving power, or will it make them question my salvation?) [Phil2:15]
This is not some new way of thinking, Paul addressed the Christian’s freedom by saying:
“All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything.” – 1 Corinthians 10:23
- Let’s start with a silly example. I CAN go into the pulpit this Sunday morning, dressed in a Hawaiian shirt, swimming trunks, flip-flops, and arm-bands and lead the service dressed like that. Biblically you won’t find a verse that stops me from doing it, but in reality it will certainly cause confusion (and certain long-term trauma) for the brothers and sisters, and for those not yet saved it will serve as a distraction from the Gospel.
- I have no problem with tattoos, but I understand that some brothers and sisters do. I also understand that in our culture tattoos often have a bad reputation. So If I were to get one I wouldn’t get it somewhere where it will be easily seen. That way, no offence is caused and the Gospel witness is not damaged.
- A Christian having a drink with their meal, or an occasional beer etc. is not wrong. To say it is, is to add to the text, and to attach personal views onto the Bible. But there is never an excuse for an underage Christian to drink, this is simple sin. There is also never an excuse for a Christian to get drunk, this also is simply sin. Being drunk is associated with our fallen world, where people look to boozy weekends to try and find something to look forward to in an otherwise empty world. For a Christian to drink to get drunk implies, to the world, that they are still with them, that their life has not been transformed, that they have not been made into new creatures. It causes the world to look at you and say “I thought they were meant to be a Christian?”
Think of the damage this does to your current and future witness to them? As you tell them you have found a joy greater than any on earth, whilst all they can think about is how they saw you in town or at that person’s house, drinking that bit too much.
Yes, we will fail again and again, but as servants of God, we should strive all the time to serve Him. Especially as young Christians, we are stepping into an increasingly dark and hostile world, we have to nail our colours to the mast, and be mindful of all our actions. Understanding that we are the representatives of Christ in all that we do.
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