Friday, November 18, 2005

Drinkin' - Final Guidelines

Continued from this post...

I shared my personal convictions regarding the consumption of alchohol in the last post. As I stated, those being my own personal convictions (and those convictions in accordance with Scripture as I understand it at this point), I do not necessarily expect that all Christian folk follow the exact same policy in the exact same way. I DO EXPECT, however, that whatever conclusion a believer has arrived at regarding the use of alcohol that they do adhere to these guidelines;

  • That he or she never strays close to drunkedness or other sin through partaking alcohol
  • That he or she knows why they hold a particular standpoint and can, when necessary, accurately articulate their standpoint with both grace and truth to either a believer or non-believer in an appropriate manner
  • That he or she understands the various facets in which this issue can be viewed apart from the explicit mandates of Scripture and thus does not fall into the trap of simply passing judgment on those who hold differing convictions (again, assuming that those differing convictions do not go against the commands of Scripture regarding Christian conduct)
  • That he or she would never make their viewpoint a stumbling block to a a weaker Christian or use their convictions to manipulate or condescend others
  • That he or she would be ever-vigilant to protect their witness and present themselves as blameless
  • That those who partake do so in a way that honors the Lord and that those who abstain likewise do so in a way that honors the Lord
  • That he or she consistantly filters their conviction and actions through the lens of Scripture - not only through the explicit and implicit statements specifically regarding alcohol, but regarding general conduct as well.

May God grant us the grace to strive in such a way that our actions and convictions never fail to align with Scripture - in this matter or in any other.

11 comments:

Matthew Wireman said...

Jason ~

I think this series was pretty good. However, I would like for you to comment more on the cultural issues entailed with drinking alcohol. I don't think that many people will disagree with what you have laid out - that drinking in and of itself is not wrong (although there are some). I think the fundamental issue is whether it will hurt one's witness to those who do not believe in Christ.

My questions are: What do people think this would hurt their witness for Christ? How is what you do any different than someone who does not drink at all for the same reasons? Do you think that those in leadership should have a higher standard than those that are not? I guess what I am trying to press on has to do with the issue of what does it mean to cause a brother to stumble? If you answer this last question, I think you can forego the ones before. It just took me a while to get to the root question for me.

Karate Explosion said...

I disagree...I do think that it is however, Imporatant to keep your brother in mind, ecspecially if you are in leadership...BUT it is not fundamental or critical. What is critical is that it is not causing you to stumble. If drinking is a road block to integrity with Christ, for you, not others, than hands down you shouldn't. But there is so much gray area when others are involved.

Again it is important to "be all things to all men." However ultimatley you have to answer for your own actions, and you cannot ultimatly be responsible for the actions of others. You can keep others in mind always, but again you cannot be responsible for what they feel, think, or do based how you act.

j truitt said...

interesting thought there stroudson...i like it...i think.

curious servant said...

I wanted to thank you for several things.

1. Your well written, thought-provoking posts which are a pleasure to read.

2. Your visits to my blog and the words of encouragement you left there.

3. Your prayers in tdifficult times.

May God continue to bless you. I apreciate you.

happy Thanksgiving!

van.diesel said...

C.S. - many thanks for your kind words. They humble me and I praise God for them.

Matthew - great question... what does it mean to cause a brother to stumble? (Are you asking this in general, or in specific relation to the topic of drinking? I'll try to address both. At any rate, this is a question worthy of consideration.)

I agree with Karate's comments above in that, ultimately, a brother will make their own decision in the end. Certainly, I can have some influence - perhaps even great influence - but in the end, it is their decision (this does not imply, however, that I escape a measure of culpability if I have influenced or lead a brother poorly, i.e. to sin). Along with that, we have to consider the fact that we are not to live simply pleasing ourselves, but our neighbors (Christian and non) - for their good and edification (Rom. 15:1-2).

Aside from drunkeness, because I find no explicit mandates in Scripture regarding drinking, I would consider this a "disputable matter" (Rom. 14:1, NIV) - unlike drunkeness, which is indisputably condemned. Much of my thinking regarding drinking stems from Romans 14, which gives groundrules for conduct towards brothers in the faith regarding disputable matters.

No doubt, those in leadership must have a higher standard than those who do not. But (again assuming that this issue is a disputable matter), by what standard does one judge if there is no explicit command? Do you go by the Pharisee's standard? The Stronger Brother's? The Weaker Brother's?

With this issue (or any disputable matter, I suppose) one's stance as a leader or stronger brother should be to protect the weaker brother, as best as I understand Romans 14. I see 3 folks represented in that chapter:

The Stronger Brother (grounded in the Word, faith, conscience, self-control - motivated by love for God; determines not to put an obstacle before his brother; excercises freedom; does not condemn himself by what he approves; pursues peace; does not take offense when challenged),

The Pharisee (motivated by love for self; uses the Word to manipulate; harshly judges brothers; condemns those who do not hold to his standards; pursues his own agenda; takes up offense when challenged)

The Weaker Brother (not well-grounded in the Word, which leads to weak faith, conscience, and self-control; may condemn himself or allow himself to be condemned by others; influenced easily in how to excercise freedom; influenced easily to sin)

In the context of those I minister to, what I have put forth here is a far higher standard than many of them hold (I do not say this in pride, or to condescend them - only to draw a contrast.) What I mean by that is that i have found many of those under my guidance either have no articulate standard at all in this area other than a general sense of what they ought or ought not do - there is no hard and fast guideline for them, so their conduct in this matter becomes wholly dictated by any given situation (i.e. if i'm out with my christian friends i don't drink out of fear of judgement or because "i'm not supposed to, but i really don't know why, it's just what i've been told" OR i'll go out with my non-christian coworkers and get loaded.) Therefore, in the context of my 'flock' and ministry here, the fact that i have an articulated standard makes it a high standard. In the context of the culture in which I minister, these guidelines put forth a decent balance of freedom without stepping into legalism.

Another group of people - a community of seminary students perhaps - may look at this same set of guidelines and assert that the stance I've set forth here is completely wrong and that noone should ever drink. In the context of their situation, that may be wholly appropriate and were I in that situation, i would certainly reevaluate my alcohol policy in an effort not to cause those around me to stumble. Even in my current environment, were I to learn that my stance is a stumbling block or becomes a point of contention to the community of believers here, I would seek change.

I think this answers your question, but if not, please let me know.

For further info on this, readers may find this article extremely helpful - it is an exerpt from Decision Making and the Will of God by by Garry Friesen.

Matthew Wireman said...

I have a question...It seems that although men are responsible for their own actions, to say that it is not critical that you not consider someone else stumbling into sin. I think this is the fundamental question as regards drinking.

Paul said he wouldn't eat meat anymore if it caused his brother to stumble. Regardless of context, there is a high-calling on the stronger brother to bear with the weaker brother. Romans 14 is chock full of argument as to why we should take it seriously that we could destroy the faith of another brother (Rom 14.15, 20).

Verse 15 says that if a brother is grieved by what we are eating, we need to stop eating it. This seems to run counter to what has been said.

Yes, there is much gray area. And it is in these gray areas that the stronger in faith should bear with the weaker brother. Rom. 15.1:   We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. This is a very strong, no questions-asked statement for the issue of freedom and gray areas.

I agree, there is much freedom in Christ. However, we should not use our freedom as a reason to tell the weaker brother to get over it. The essential thing is that we do not destroy the work of God in our cavalier way of living - saying that Christ has freed us from such "legalistic" strivings. Perhaps, it is the one who says, "I can drink regardless of what someone else thinks." Perhaps this one is not strong enough to forego a freedom for the sake of someone else's faith.

van.diesel said...

It has not been my intent here to communicate that it is not critical to consider someone else falling into sin. My aim has been the contrary.

Verse 15 says that if a brother is grieved by what we are eating, we need to stop eating it.

Absolutely.

This seems to run counter to what has been said.

How so?

Does Paul mean if one brother at one time is grieved by what you are eating, you are never ever to eat that again for all time? Or does he mean you are careful around that particular brother? Does he mean that you then abstain from all things that may potentially offend?

There is indeed a high calling for the stronger to bear with the weaker, but I do not think you can do so while disregarding context.

However, we should not use our freedom as a reason to tell the weaker brother to get over it.

I do not believe I have communicated this here. By no means should we flaunt Christian liberty while ignoring Christian duty. I agree with your statement, but I think you must balance this by not passively encouraging a brother to continue in his weakness. When a child whines, and you consistantly give into their whining without providing instruction, you only reinforce their bad behavior. Likewise, with the weaker brother. This is not to say by any means that I exploit his weakness by flaunting my freedom before him. But nor is it to condone his weakness without challenging his thinking.

samb said...

i agree with JVD here...again let me reiterate, that however important, the cause is not to ensure other brothers are "ok" and without sin, so to speak.

I understand the concept scripturally, that causing others to stumble is highly regarded in Pauls veiw. However there cannot be an overtly price paid on your faith in bearing the weakness of others. And there is a difference in not causing one to stumble, and being free in Christ.

It seems contradictory to say, be free in christ, but not at the cost of those around those you.
I will say this. If it is an issue where you are leading a relationship into the wrong direction with your actions, then you are responsible, however you cannot and wont be held responsible for the actions of others based on your freedom in Christ in working out your faith.

van.diesel said...

Samb,

This is a bold statement you make; however you cannot and wont be held responsible for the actions of others based on your freedom in Christ in working out your faith.

Can you provide a defense of this?

Matthew Wireman said...

I made a comment a couple of days ago and it didn't appear...AHHHHHH! Let's see if I can redo that one.

My contention with what some has been said regards the fact that Paul does not say we should merely make sure we are not sinning. He says that the stronger brother should bear with the weaker brother. There is no correcting and not letting people remain weak. How does this play into our practical living.

I agree on one level - that individuals will be accountable to God and that we should be focused on making sure we are notsinning against our consciences. However, on a deeper level, we are called not to cause another brother to stumble and fall into sin.

We will be called to give an account as to whether we caused someone to sin. Matt. 18:6: "But whoever causes one of these alittle ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea."

These are foreboding words and we would do well to think of church on a corporate level. We are members one to another (Rom 12.5) and do not merely live before God, but with other people who desperately need our care, rebuke, and exhortation.

Bryan said...

This has been an interesting and educational series of posts and discussions. Thank you.

It seems that Timothy was so concerned about his witness, and example, that he litteraly risked his health. Paul recommends in his first letter to Timothy (I Tim 5:22-23) that he take a little wine for his stomach, in the context of ensuring that he keeps his purity. Is it reading too much into this to think that Paul recommends abstinance (excepting for health)?

Now that I'm leaving Las Vegas, tomorow morning, I'd be interested in reading a series on gambling.
:-)