Wine and Agape Love
Can the believer drink wine and strong drink KNOWING that his actions are a stumblingblock to others (I Cor.8:9)? We are literally surrounded by alcohol abusers, alcoholics, and people may well be on their way to becoming alcoholics. If alcohol consumption in twenty-first century America doesn’t fit the bill as a “stumblingblock” then what does? Knowing that one in every ten drinkers becomes a problem drinker, isn’t social drinking a bit like playing Russian roulette? Can we say with assurance, “Alcohol will not bring me (or those who follow my example) under its power” (I Cor. 10:12)?
The fundamentalist who believes that the principles found in the New Testament call for abstinence from strong drink, is often labeled narrow and unloving. That’s only half true. He may be narrow – but that’s not such a bad thing (Cf. Matt. 7:13-14). However, it is quite unfair and inaccurate to label him as unloving. In fact, the MOST IMPORTANT ARGUMENT for total abstinence from intoxicating beverages stems directly from the love of God!
First and foremost we should ask, “Is drinking alcohol an expression of God’s love?” Is it love to drink alcohol knowing that it might cause a brother (who is a recovering alcoholic) to follow your example and end up overpowered and on Skid Row once again (I Cor.8:9-13)? Is that love? Is it love to passively influence a young believer to follow your example of social drinking, knowing that he could become one of the 18 million problem drinkers in America? Love is expressed in a willingness to lay aside the exercise of our rights for the spiritual well being of others and the testimony of Christ. Love requires that we “Look not every man on his things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was in Christ Jesus…” (Phil. 2:4-5a). Love demands that we manifest this aspect of Christlikeness: looking out for the personal interests of others – even if it means sacrificing self (Phil. 2:5-8).
Isn’t it fair to conclude that love DEMANDS abstinence? This isn’t law. This isn’t legalism. This is God’s love being shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit (Rom.5:5). This is the marvelous grace of our loving Lord. This is the wonderful grace of Jesus. This is the mind of Christ (Phil.2:4-8) expressed in acts of love. This is the fruit of the Spirit. This is a manifestation of the indwelling LIFE and character of Christ in a yielded believer. This is not love in word or in tongue – this is love in deed and in truth. Manifesting this kind of Christlike, self-sacrificing love is well pleasing to God. To demand the right to drink strong drink regardless of its adverse effects on others is cold, selfish, and unloving. (Isn’t this an interesting twist? Fundamentalism giving the Evangelical world a lecture about being “unloving!”) Biblical love is not a warm and gushy feeling. Nor does love spinelessly embrace every foul-smelling practice under the banner of broadmindedness. Love is willing to make tough choices that involve genuine sacrifice of self for the good of another (cf. John 3:16).
The ever-indulgent flesh, on the other hand, demands its own way and seeks after that which pleases self, without regard for the spiritual well being others. True GRACE teaches us to DENY ungodliness and worldly lusts that we should live SOBERLY (Titus 2:12b).
The HEART of this issue is not law, but love. The purpose of this paper is NOT to frame the issue of social drinking in a context of “law,” but rather in one of LOVE. Because of the love of God and by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, we urge believers to consider others. “It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak” (Rom. 14:21).
“Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light. Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying. But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof” (Rom.13:10-14).