A candle on a hill?

I read an article today that said several Christian colleges are lifting the ban on alcohol and tobacco among their staff. It seems that going along with the crowd is becoming more important than standing on the Word. This is rather concerning for me, and for several reasons.

First off, let me say that I’m not necessarily against drinking per se, but I am against what social drinking leads to for many people. It’s like a lot of other things — one drink can lead to two, and that can lead to questionable behavior, and that can damage a person’s reputation or much more. Think about it….how many young people go out on Friday night, or whenever they choose to engage in social drinking, and have just one drink? Yes, there are people who do; however, the majority don’t stop at one. In fact, lots of people who go out for the purpose of drinking stop long after they should. See, the problem is that drinking isn’t just drinking. It affects the pleasure center of the brain, and it leads to decreased inhibitions. Decreased inhibitions lead to people doing things they might never do when they are sober; these things can and often do include vulgar language, drug use, and lewd behavior up to and including sex outside of marriage. How many people wake up the morning after and either can’t remember what they’ve done or are ashamed at what they did while under the influence of mind-altering substances?

Here is a short list of things that can happen as a result of going out to drink with friends (either directly or indirectly):

  • drunkenness
  • nudity
  • fornication
  • adultery
  • rape
  • car accidents
  • arrest
  • drunk driving
  • loss of employment
  • alcohol poisoning, which can lead to death
  • drug abuse
  • lying to cover up where you were or what you were doing
  • pregnancy
  • child endangerment
  • loss of respect
  • memory loss
  • overspending

These are short-term consequences of the effects of alcohol intake on the brain. The long term effects can be much more damaging and include losing your home, your family, your job and possibly even your life. Drunk people do all kinds of dumb things because they don’t have the checks and balances that exist when they are sober. This loss of inhibitions can even lead to a decline in personal hygiene, assault, stealing in order to get more money to support a drinking habit, alcoholism, drug dealing, prostitution, and murder — or even the death of the person doing the drinking.

Is it really worth taking that step? Is fitting in with the crowd important enough to risk your life? Do you want the people you go to church with to see you acting like a fool under the influence of alcohol? What about what we see in the Word of God?

  • Proverbs 20:1 “Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise.”
  • Romans 13:13 “Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy”
  • Ephesians 5: 1-18 “Therefore be imitators of God [copy Him and follow His example], as well-beloved children [imitate their father].And walk in love, [esteeming and delighting in one another] as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us, a slain offering and sacrifice to God [for you, so that it became] a sweet fragrance.But immorality (sexual vice) and all impurity [of lustful, rich, wasteful living] or greediness must not even be named among you, as is fitting and proper among saints (God’s consecrated people).Let there be no filthiness (obscenity, indecency) nor foolish and sinful (silly and corrupt) talk, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting or becoming; but instead voice your thankfulness [to God].For be sure of this: that no person practicing sexual vice or impurity in thought or in life, or one who is covetous [who has lustful desire for the property of others and is greedy for gain]—for he [in effect] is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.Let no one delude and deceive you with empty excuses and groundless arguments [for these sins], for through these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of rebellion and disobedience.So do not associate or be sharers with them.For once you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of Light [lead the lives of those native-born to the Light].For the fruit (the effect, the product) of the Light or the Spirit [consists] in every form of kindly goodness, uprightness of heart, and trueness of life.10 And try to learn [in your experience] what is pleasing to the Lord [let your lives be constant proofs of what is most acceptable to Him].11 Take no part in and have no fellowship with the fruitless deeds and enterprises of darkness, but instead [let your lives be so in contrast as to] expose and reprove and convict them.12 For it is a shame even to speak of or mention the things that [such people] practice in secret.13 But when anything is exposed and reproved by the light, it is made visible and clear; and where everything is visible and clear there is light.14 Therefore He says, Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall shine (make day dawn) upon you and give you light.15 Look carefully then how you walk! Live purposefully and worthily and accurately, not as the unwise and witless, but as wise (sensible, intelligent people),16 Making the very most of the time [buying up each opportunity], because the days are evil.17 Therefore do not be vague and thoughtless and foolish, but understanding and firmly grasping what the will of the Lord is.18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but ever be filled and stimulated with the [Holy] Spirit.” {Amplified Version}

As sons and daughters of a Holy God, we are admonished again and again to be examples of His love and grace, His light and mercy; of how He has changed us, how He has brought us out of darkness and into light. How, then, is drunkenness any part of this? How can we equate “getting loose” with others to the glory and mystery of our salvation? We have been purchased by the blood of a Holy Savior; paid for by the sacrifice of His life, which paid for our sins. Can we not give up drinking booze for that sacrifice, or is it so important to us that we have to lay aside our salvation (or put it in a box on a shelf in our hearts) so we can go have what the unsaved call “fun?” Do you really want to risk your witness … wait, before you answer and say that’s not going to happen, think about the person God has you mentoring…think about them coming along the street after you’ve had a few drinks, stumbling out to your car so you can take the lives of others into your hands as you drive home with decreased response time because of what the alcohol does to your brain. What kind of message does that give them? “Oh, it’s okay to drink, even though we just read this week that being drunk isn’t good. Maybe those words were for another time and place. I guess the Word of God is just a guideline, not something we need to take literally. It’s….well….it’s just a story, then. Just an example. Just fiction.”

Lest you think this isn’t hitting me too, I’m being convicted myself as I type — not of drinking, because I don’t and haven’t for over a decade, but I’m being convicted of other behaviors I engage in that don’t glorify God; behaviors that might lead others to think that we can make exceptions to the Scripture for our own benefit. I need to repent, too. See, this is how it is…we get a message for others, or we sit down to discuss something important, and God takes the light of His Word and shines it on our lives as well.

Is your life a candle on a hill? Or do you hide that light so you can indulge in worldly pleasures? I know I have some repenting to do, and some changing.  Repenting is no good if it doesn’t lead to change. That’s like adding soap to the washer but putting it in a plastic bag first — it doesn’t get the clothes clean unless it can mix in with them and touch them. Repentance is when the Word of God touches your life and cleans it up, each time leaving you a little more like Him and a little less like the world.

“May God bless you and keep you; may God make His face shine on you and be gracious to you; may God turn His countenance upon you and give you peace.” (Numbers 6:24-26)