5. Because Alcohol Is Addictive
Yes, and so is sex, eating, exercise, and a whole host of other things. Just because alcohol (or anything else) may be addictive for one Christian, doesn’t mean that alcohol should be abstained from for all believers. Should we abstain from sex because it has even more addictive power than alcohol?
I wish he would have made this distinction: Alcohol MAY be addictive. Many Christians, myself included, drink alcohol and don’t feel any slavish addiction to it. To make a definitive statement that alcohol IS addictive would give a power to the substance of alcohol that is doesn’t inherently possess.
This is the phrase from his message that disturbed me the most:
(Said in very passionate tones):I can’t imagine for the life of my how a pastor who is the shepherd of thousands of people would make a statement like this. It would be like me getting up in front of my church and saying “I can’t for the life of me understand why a follower of Jesus Christ would ever send their kids to public school!”
“I can’t imagine for the life of me why a follower of Jesus Christ, a blood purchased son or daughter of the living God, would involve themselves with something that is reeking the havoc in our society that it is!! I don’t understand it.”
This may be my strong personal conviction, but sending kids to home school or public school is an extra-biblical issue that should NOT divide our churches. As their shepherd, I should seek to uphold the unity of the body and not make strong statements like this that will only divide my people on a matter that should never be divided upon.
Pastor MacDonald says at the end of his message that he isn’t making a law here for his people, but he does essentially say in his statement above, “You may be a Christian and drink but I don’t get you! You are weird to me!” This is not a very loving statement for his people and it grieves me deeply. When you have that much power and influence over your people and make statements like this that have zero Biblical foundation the detrimental fallout is potentially huge.
How much better would it be to say, “I know that this issue of alcohol is potentially divisive among Christians today. As your shepherd, it is my conviction that I will personally abstain, but I want you to know that we will not be divided at this church over abstinence from or participation in the consumption of alcohol. Even though I choose not to, as a Christian, you have the freedom to drink alcohol in such a way that does not promote drunkenness and if you choose to do so I will not pass judgment upon you.” How much more unifying, biblical, and helpful would that we for his people?
Jerry Bridges is very helpful on this topic. If you have not read his book, Transforming Grace, you should. It is one of the most helpful, easy to read, books on the Christian life that you could ever find. He has a very helpful chapter that deals with these matters and I could do no better than to quote him at length.
...legalism insists on conformity to manmade religious rules and requirements, which are often unspoken but are nevertheless very real. To use a more common expression, it requires conformity to the “do’s and don’ts” of our particular Christian circle. We force this legalism on other or allow others to force it on us. It is conformity to how other people think we should live instead of how the Bible tells us to live. More often than not, these rules have no valid biblical basis. Like the Pharisees of Jesus’ time, we have tried to “help” God by adding our manmade rules to His commands (p. 120).These manmade rules are what Bridges calls, “fences”. Fences are not all bad. For us personally, they can be quite helpful at times but we need to be cautious with our fences. Bridges writes:
For all of us, it may be good to have some fences, but we have to work at keeping them as just that - fences, helpful to us but not necessarily applicable to others. We also have to work at guarding our freedom from other people’s fences.Bridges’ quote here gets to the heart of my problem with Pastor MacDonald’s message. Bridges writes:
Some of the fences in our respective Christian circles have been around a long time. No one quite knows their origin, but by now they are “embedded in concrete.” Although it may cause conflict if you violate one, you must guard your freedom. To paraphrase Paul, “Stand firm in your freedom, and don’t let anyone bring you into bondage with their fences.”
I’m not suggesting you jump over fences just to thumb your nose at the people who hold to them so dearly. We are to “make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification” (Romans 14:19). Use discretion in embracing or rejecting a particular fence. But don’t let others coerce you with manmade rules. And ask God to help you see if you are subtly coercing or judging others with your own fences (p. 124).
As Christians we can’t seem to accept the clear biblical teaching in Romans 14 that God allows equally godly people to have differing opinions on certain matters. We universalize what we think is God’s particular leading in our lives and apply it to everyone else.This is why I can’t believe that Pastor MacDonald would stand up in front of thousands of Christians and say what he said above. When your spiritual leader says something like this in reference to an extra-biblical matter I can’t see how it can possibly be helpful for the Body. Will it not drive a wedge between those in his church with differing convictions on alcohol? He has not served his people well in this way. We should not be dividing our people over this issue. Pastors (and all believers), be wary of how you communicate your views on extra-biblical matters.
When we think like that we are, so to speak, “putting God in a box.” We are insisting that He must surely lead everyone as we believe He has led us. We refuse to allow God the freedom to deal with each of us as individuals. When we think like that, we are legalists.
We must not seek to bind the consciences of other believers with the private convictions that arise out of our personal walk with God. Even if you believe God has led you in developing those convictions, you still must not elevate them to the level of spiritual principles for everyone else to follow (p. 126).