Sober… by the Grace of God…
Earlier this week, I celebrated twenty seven years since I stopped drinking alcohol. It seems that most of us who have quit drinking can tell you the day and year that this momentous occasion occurred – and so can I – it was March 24, 1993. I drank too much back in those days. I always knew when the next drink would be coming and it was clear to me that it was becoming a problem. My youngest brother had issues with drinking and I think that Dad did also. By the way, I am not judging.
So when I had several elevated liver test results, it became clear to me that something had to change before I ended up with some irreversible damage to my system. Thankfully, I was one of those fortunate few who was able to quit cold turkey and I have never gone back to drinking.
I think that it helped when I was ordained. Part of my commitment during the ordination process was to abstain from alcohol and that has made my intervening years much easier. Sure, there are times that I would love to grab a beer or something a little stronger, but my life is far better without tempting myself and taking a chance of heading down a path that I would later regret.
This brings me to a biblical issue that has divided theologians for years. My paternal grandmother believed that Jesus never had a drink of alcoholic wine. Even though wine was the drink of choice back in ancient times, Grandma thought that Jesus drank a beverage that was devoid of alcohol. In reading stories in the Bible, particularly in Cana of Galilee where Jesus performed His first miracle, we are told that Jesus turned water into wine during a wedding feast.
Mary, the mother of Jesus, noticed that the host had run out of wine. Jesus directed that pots be filled with water, yet when the liquid was poured into glasses, it was wine. We don’t know whether this was “real” wine, as it had not been aged or fermented. So I presume it is possible that it could have been wine – without the alcohol.
On the other hand, we know that many of the miracles of Jesus had to do with the compression of time. Healing the sick, multiplying the food, etc. were all miracles that could have included an acceleration of time to provide the result we read about in the Scripture. So it is also possible that in the “water into wine” story, Jesus also accelerated time to achieve the desired result – wine as we know it.
After all, time is of no consequence to the Godhead. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit have been there forever and will be there forever into the future. Since they were there before time began, they exist outside our normal laws of time and space. And we know that God is omnipresent (all present), omniscient (all knowing) and omnipotent (all powerful) which transcends our normal patterns of thought and the world we live in.
So whether Jesus drank alcoholic wine or not is irrelevant. He is God and we aren’t. Certainly I was unable to drink in moderation and by the grace of God, I was able to stop and not look back. And I had great friends at the time who supported my decision. Until I was comfortable with the new limitations I put on myself, they never drank in front of me and supported me in every way possible. I am eternally grateful for their thoughtfulness during my transition to sobriety.
That kindness is, in itself, biblical. Paul is very clear that we are to be mindful of the people around us and how we should deny ourselves if it makes it easier for another believer to eat, drink or live according to their decisions. In the book of Romans, Paul reminds us that the edification of Jesus and each other is more important than eating or drinking.
The apostle tells us, in Romans 14:15, “If your brother is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy your brother for whom Christ died. Do not allow what you consider good to be spoken of as evil. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men. Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a man to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble. It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother to fall.”
These verses were most helpful to me when I decided to quit drinking – and my friends honored me as well. My encouragement tonight is that Jesus wants us to act in love to one another – and that love can be expressed in a number of unusual ways. My prayer is that all of us will be more attentive to the needs of each other and that perhaps we will abstain from something that we enjoy to make it possible for a brother or sister in Christ to succeed. I know that it worked for me. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…