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Drinking & All Those Other Controversial Subjects

There are many controversial subjects in the Christian world. Drinking, tattoos, cussing, and eating foods sacrificed to idols…I think that pretty much sums it up. There’s not really anything else Christians disagree about. Well, maybe drums. Anyway, I will be the first to admit that the Bible is not always black and white on all life issues. However, I believe we try to blur the lines by applying Scripture in contexts that it was never meant to be applied. Let’s take a look at what I believe to be the essential passages to clear up all of those “gray” areas. I will simply provide the most imperative verses. I would encourage you to reference the entire passages as well.

“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive. No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.”1 Corinthians 10:23-24

“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything. – 1 Corinthians 6:12

“Therefore do not let what you know is good 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.” – Romans 14:16-17

“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God—even as I try to please everyone in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.” – 1 Corinthians 10:31-33

I think these drive home the point. It’s important to note that Paul used these verses in varying contexts. He was speaking of food, drinks, lawsuits, and undoubtedly everything in between. Ultimately, we see that the purpose of everything we do should be for the glory of the Lord, putting others before ourselves. Yet, for some reason, we like to take these freedoms that have been given to us through Christ and apply them to our own selfish desires. We tell ourselves, “I have the freedom to … ” Do not forget that Paul was a man completely given to God. He expected persecution. He was preaching the Gospel in many different contexts and cultures. He was also writing to the early church, a church that Paul obviously expected to do what it was supposed to. 

Instead of taking these freedoms, which were meant for circumstances much different than our dinners at Chili’s and football games, and applying them correctly, we want to apply them selfishly, thinking about ourselves and our freedoms rather than the selflessness these freedoms were supposed to inhibit. The ultimate question is this: “Is this beneficial for the furtherance of the Kingdom?” Other questions may be: “Will anyone see this the wrong way?” “Will this cause someone to stumble or make a wrong assumption?” “Am I doing this for myself or for the good of others?” 

Don’t think that I’m saying we don’t have freedoms. We do. I have the freedom to accept food from Muslims. I have the freedom to take a drink from a Russian who would be offended if I reject his/her hospitality. I have the freedom to do many things if the action will be beneficial to the Kingdom of God. There are moments in the mission field, which is the context Paul wrote from, that it could possibly do more harm to the Gospel than good if I reject something that is seen as “Unchristian” in a different context. However, until I am in such a situation, you won’t see a drink to my lips. If you ever get the chance to witness to a Muslim, and I hope you do, one of the first questions they will ask is, “Do you drink?” Why even have to go through the effort of having a conversation about the freedom you have in Christ with someone who cannot begin to comprehend your relationship with Christ, much less the freedom that relationship brings. The same can be said of the way we dress, the speech that comes from our mouths, and countless other situations.

You never know who is watching you. You never know what kind of person God will place in your path to share Christ with. You never know how someone, believer or unbeliever, will interpret your actions and “freedoms”. Don’t you dare sit around with your Scripture passages that were written for people who were expected to take the Gospel to all the world in various contexts and cultures and apply it to your butt sitting with your buddies watching a game. Our Christian witness isn’t a game. If you think it is, Paul didn’t write that for you. Dying to self and living for Christ is a sacrifice with many risks. You will risk your friendships, your job, your family, your reputation, and your life. Please don’t risk your witness. Don’t risk someone not knowing Christ because you were using your freedoms selfishly. All things are permissible, but not all things are beneficial. Think about the benefit of what you are doing in light of the Gospel with each and every decision you make. 

Commanded & Called, 

Matt Atwell

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About the RBC Blog

Each week, one of the members of the RBC staff write a short blog about their area of ministry or a devotional about one of their favorite passages of Scripture. Check in with us each week to see what our church leaders have to say about their walks with the Lord! New posts appear every Wednesday at 9:00 a.m. PST. 

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