I enter the liquor store and begin to browse the aisles. This is completely foreign territory for me. Less than ten minutes later I approach the counter and ask for direction. I will never find the bottle I’m looking for by myself. I’m clueless.
A few minutes later I am standing in the parking lot talking on the phone with my friend. She tells me how cute it is that I’m self-conscious about asking people for help in a liquor store. All of the sudden I realize how loudly I am discussing the fact that I just purchased vodka in a public parking lot. Who might hear me? What will they think?
A few distinct faces and their potential thoughts immediately enter my imagination… I need to get out of here…
I do not believe that drinking alcohol is sinful. The Bible clearly indicates that drunkenness is a bad thing. And addiction is quite obviously [biblical backup or not] a bad thing. But drinking in moderation? I don’t believe it is wrong. I’ve made this statement multiple times.
As a general rule, however, I do not drink. Primarily I avoid alcohol because I do not want to cause anyone else to stumble (I’ve had many friends who struggle with addiction) and because I do not want to develop any addiction myself. I have a rather addictive personality.
If you are wondering, “What is your point?” at the moment, I ask you to bear with me for just a tad bit longer.
Two of my friends had a really rough week. Things got particularly emotional regarding certain men in their lives. On Wednesday, after buying cherry red lipstick completely on whim, I suggested the three of us have a girl’s night out this Friday. Theme for the night: bold lip color. Why not? Nothing cheers up a woman better than making herself beautiful and then flaunting said beauty with others.
The plan? Dinner out. Drinks and chick flicks at home.
That’s when I drove off to the liquor store for drinks. Then that feeling of guilt washed over me. In my mind, I reviewed all of my personal convictions about alcohol. Why do I feel so uncomfortable? You see, I’m not even sure if I can describe my feeling as “guilty”. You see, I did not feel concerned that God would condemn my behavior. I only felt concerned about what other people would think. I kept reminding myself, “If what I am doing is not morally wrong, then I have no reason to feel ashamed right now!”
After dinner out, we hit the grocery store to pick up some lemon-lime pop to be mixed with the vodka I purchased earlier. I grab another drink I have been wanting to try. As long as I am drinking alcohol tonight, I might as well try everything I want. Then we run into a pastor we know who is just entering retirement. I give him a hug, alcoholic beverage in hand. Then we chat for about twenty minutes. The whole time we talk, I am wondering how he feels about the drink I am holding. Then I am arguing with myself that it shouldn’t matter. I have no reason to feel ashamed. We are not getting drunk tonight. He doesn’t say a word about the drink. (But he does compliment the lipstick ;)) We head for the soft drink aisle and I change my mind about the drink in my hand. After holding it for twenty minutes, I decide I don’t want to try it that badly – the vodka will be enough for tonight. I put it back and we leave.
Back at the apartment, we mix our drinks and watch our movie. True to our intentions, none of us get drunk. Not even tipsy. I had two drinks in the span of about three hours. No big deal.
Tonight, in the very same apartment, we had Bible Study. The discussion? Romans 2. Specifically, we talk about the word “conscience”. How much of our conscience is naturally placed within us by God and how much of it is formed due to training? It hits me: this is exactly the issue that came up last night. I feel no natural convictions about drinking in moderation from God. But the churchianity view that all drinking is bad has nurtured my conscience in a different direction. In other words, at times I feel guilty about things I don’t have to feel guilty about. Although I did nothing wrong, I walked around half the night in shame. False shame.
What does all of this have to do with sex? Just like alcohol, sex brings with it a bad stigma. In all reality, it is a wonderful thing while experienced in the right context. In Ecclesiastes we learn that life is short, and therefore we should enjoy it!
“Go, eat your bread with joy,
And drink your wine with a merry heart;
For God has already accepted your works.
Let your garments always be white,
And let your head lack no oil.
Live joyfully with the wife whom you love all the days of your vain life which He has given you under the sun, all your days of vanity; for that is your portion in life, and in the labor which you perform under the sun.”
We are advised to enjoy drinking wine and to enjoy marriage! We can live life – and live it happily – without either. Paul gives great argument for singleness. But if we choose to drink sometimes or to get married, we can enjoy both of those things to the fullest! The problem with the modern church is that such things as alcohol and sex are emphasized so greatly as negatives, that many Christians aren’t sure how to enjoy them anymore.
Young adults enter marriage and do not know how to enjoy physical intimacy. Or worse, young adults do not enter marriage when they should – with the sentiment that they want to put God first. Putting God first is healthy. But it doesn’t always mean that we should neglect marriage. We have been forced to stifle our sexuality. Churches are teaching all kinds of things about sex. Some good. Some not so good. I’ve heard it taught that singles should not even kiss. Okay… I can understand some of the reasoning behind that mentality. But what is a bride going to go through when she transfers from “Do not touch him ever – kissing is sinful!” to “Everything is allowed. Your body is his and his is yours.” I’ve heard singles accused of idolatry simply for desiring a marriage relationship. Since when is desiring a husband sinful? Obsessing to the point of “I can’t think of anything else!” isn’t so hot. But let’s not bash the desire. In backlash to the sin of lust, many Christians seem to think that men and women should not even be attracted to one another. “Young man, if you have desire for that woman, you are in sin!” Not true! How about the practice of the Catholic church when they force clergy to commit to celibacy? A godly man who wants to become a priest in order to teach God’s word must stifle his sexuality in a way God likely never intended.
Touching on what I spoke about in “Yoke or Burn”, might I suggest that another reason Christian marriage is failing is due to this concept of false shame? Remaining celibate until marriage is difficult in itself. Magnify that difficulty by bringing shame upon actions that are actually okay and see what results. When you think about these things, I encourage you to study what the Bible truly teaches. Is this actually wrong? Or is that just the common rumor amongst churchgoers? Is this a healthy boundary in my relationship? Or am I putting up a wall in an effort to look more righteous? Am I single because God wants me to be single right now? Or am I fighting marriage in an effort to appear more devoted to Christ?
Drinking alcohol and having sex are very comparable. God intended both for good within a certain context. Both have unfortunately been tainted by the world. And in response to world, the church has taken them to the opposite extremes.