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Eating, Drinking, and Christian Freedom

August 10, 2009

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Lydia Brownback tackles the sticky topic of Christian freedom as it relates to eating and drinking in her most recent post. Her understanding of Scripture on this issue is one I’ve come to hold and I think she shares this perspective in a balanced way. How often do we cling to our “freedoms” without considering their impact on others? How often do we hold to our conviction so legalistically that we don’t think anyone else could be right to have a different conviction? Are we thinking mostly about ourselves or putting others first when we cling to our freedoms or convictions so tenaciously? Brownback writes:

Many I know have wine with dinner, and equally as many do not. Those who do are careful about when and in front of whom they drink it. If our conscience is clear to enjoy that glass of merlot, God takes pleasure in our pleasure, but if we flaunt our enjoyment in the face of someone who believes drinking is wrong, we are going to grieve God. Freedom and joy will go out the window. Conversely, if we believe drinking any alcohol is wrong, we are not free to condemn others if they believe differently. God is equally grieved when we attempt to forbid something he hasn’t expressly forbidden.

Perhaps this should be our true test:

We do well to suspect ourselves anytime we find the need to tell others (and ourselves) about how very free we are to eat or drink a certain something. The old adage about protesting too much contains a lot of truth. True freedom in matters of eating and drinking will always be accompanied by indifference. Can you take or leave that glass of wine? If so, it is likely you are free to enjoy it. We can so easily kid ourselves here.

I think a lot of this issue comes down to motives. At one point I held to the conviction of not drinking at all. I think this served me well during that time in my life. Now, I feel the freedom to have that glass of wine with dinner. However, I will gladly give it up if it is a problem for someone else. If I’m not willing to do that, I think that glass of wine has too strong a hold on me.

Read the whole post here.

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. August 11, 2009 7:52 am

    I love how when people are seeking the Lord, He brings a unity of spirit about how He would deal with things – we’ve never talked about this, Danielle, but I could have written this post! Terrific thoughts!

  2. August 11, 2009 4:21 pm

    Interesting timing of this post. We have established a “house rule” that we wouldn’t serve alcohol unless we knew where everyone who would be present stood on the issue. However, LA and I have recently realized this really only dealt with Christians. We haven’t established our “house rules” on what to do w/ unbelievers. We recently extended hospitality to people who we believe are not Christians and did offer alcohol. Afterwards, we were a little unsettled by our choice. I’d love to hear some dialogue from you and your readers as to some things to consider/think about in this situation.

  3. August 11, 2009 8:16 pm

    I used to be afraid to tell certain people our stance on alcohol. Seems someone’s bound to be offended whether they’re for or against drinking, as your post suggests.

    We have wine or beer frequently with dinner, but seldom serve it to guests unless we know for sure where they stand. If I’m having a party where I know everyone would imbibe, I serve it, and leave some people off the guest list who’d be offended enough to make everyone else uncomfortable. Not that I have a party a week or anything. We haven’t had any unbelievers over for a long time–that is a crying shame. That is a far worse indicator of where our hearts are than how often and what stance we take on alcohol.

    I personally think Jesus turned water into wine–real, good wine, not a grape juice equiv as my church and school taught when I growing up. His disciples were there to witness it and probably taste it, too. If wine was a total biblical taboo, I doubt Jesus would have made it his first recorded miracle. He also knew everyone’s hearts, so if wine hadn’t been wise to serve, He would’ve been fine with letting the host serve just water.

    I, too, would love to hear further discussion on this.

  4. August 11, 2009 9:06 pm

    Danielle..what made us uneasy about our choice to serve alcohol to our guests was that we feared he may have had too many and that b/c we are just getting to know them, we have no idea if one of them has a problem w/ it or someone in their family has a problem w/ it, etc. WE did get some helpful input from a friend who does serve alcohol to non-believers who she has in her home and that is to try to limit how much we have (eg one 6 pack vs. 2 for 4 people to share, etc). That friend also brought up what Zo mentioned about Jesus turning water to wine. Knowing there is nothing new under the sun, we can assume that folks abused alcohol back in biblical times, too, and likely there were many who walked away from that wedding celebration drunk. Yet, Jesus turned the water into wine. So, there’s obviously other things at stake such as communicating respect to one’s guests/hosts, etc.

    I don’t know where we’re going to fall with this one. It could be that we will have a greater witness if we do serve it as LA and I limit ourselves and are counter cultural that way OR that serving it will allow the non believer to feel more comfortable to talk about any potential problems they may have with it knowing that we aren’t opposed to drinking altogether.

  5. August 12, 2009 6:50 am

    Briana, I think as you get to know these folks better, you’ll be able to discern the issue better too. Limiting sounds like a good idea.

    We’ve not yet been in that situation because most of the folks we’ve had over we know them well enough to be aware if there’s an issue in that area or not.

    I’d just say that I think it all comes down to considering others. If someone would be offended, we wouldn’t serve alcohol. If someone has an issue abusing alcohol (whether they acknowledge it or not) we wouldn’t serve it. If we know they drink and have no convictions against it and don’t have a drinking problem, then we’d feel free to serve it.

    It really depends on what we’re having too, for our meal. I wouldn’t say alcohol is something we have on hand at all times. It’s not like we have wine or beer in our cupboards or fridge at all times. It’s more of a treat for us than an everyday/week thing. Mainly, because it gets expensive! So regardless of our company, it’s not something we’d necessarily serve by default and only hold back in serving if there’s a conviction or abusive issues, if that makes sense.

  6. Melodye permalink
    August 12, 2009 2:19 pm

    Danielle — Danny and I have changed our stance on alcohol in the 29 years we’ve been married. I grew up in a home where it was forbidden. Dan drank early and often and then came to know the Lord as a young adult. When we were first married, neither of us drank. Dan, because he made a 180 degree turn when the Lord saved him and me, because I never was permitted to and this carried over into our married life. When our kids were young until they graduated from H.S., we drank socially, but never had it in our house, because we didn’t want the temptation for them. Now that they are young adults, both over 21, we have alcohol in our home. We serve it without guilt — we never, ever let anyone get drunk on our liquor.

    I believe balance is the key. This stance has modified as Dan and I have grown in the Lord — I really do enjoy a glass of wine… but I like coffee more!!!

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