Drinking itself is not a sin. The Scripture admonishes against getting drunk, not drinking itself: “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery.” (Eph. 5:18) Wine and beer are common beverages in Europe. French cuisine tastes better with a glass of wine, and German food goes down well with a mug of beer.
Despite this, I still encourage our church members to not drink. I have four reasons for this.
First, it’s easier to fall into sin when you drink. People who drive while intoxicated may have a car accident, hurting themselves and others. Some lose control of themselves when under the influence of alcohol and have sex outside of marriage. This damages their marriages and leaves them open to other risks such as sexually transmitted diseases.
Second, your faith grows rapidly when you stop drinking. Faith needs discipline to grow. Sobriety enhances self-control, which in turn cultivates discipline. I have often observed people’s faiths grow dramatically after they quit drinking or smoking. Drinking and smoking seem to somehow hold people in bondage to their sinful past, and saying no to these vices frees them from the influence of their past.
Third, Christians need to be considerate of new or non-believers. A recent Korean survey indicates that 70% of men are essentially alcoholics. Being an alcoholic doesn’t mean you constantly have a red nose or bloodshot eyes. If you must drink a glass of wine everyday, or you feel like you have to get drunk every once in a while, you are an alcoholic, according to Alcoholics Anonymous. For many Korean-Americans, the church may be the only place where they can learn to live without alcohol. If these people see other Christians drink, it may be hard for them to commit to not drinking themselves.
Fourth, we want to be good witnesses for Christ. Many non-believers believe that Christians don’t drink. If they see you drink, they may assume that you are a fake Christian. When this perception sets in, they won’t pay attention to anything you have to say about Christ. But if you stop drinking and smoking, they may be interested in Christ because they know that you can’t stop such habits on your own. They might want to know about your experience and learn about Jesus, who made it possible.
Western missionaries were wise when they prohibited believers from drinking when they first came to Korea a hundred years ago. I would like it to be our church rule that members not drink. If you are a social drinker who enjoys some wine or beer on special occasions, I will not condemn you. But I do ask that you be considerate enough to not drink in the presence of new believers or people who need to come to the Lord. Some people might consider this hypocrisy, but I think that it’s thoughtful and loving.
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