1.18.2005

Hide the beer, the pastor's here!!!

When I was 15 years old I went to Portugal for a “short term missions trip” (it was really just a summer vacation for Christian kids). On this trip I met several fascinating people. I remember meeting the pastor of a small church and I remember how much he loved God, and how he showed God’s love to the people of his small village. We participated in several church events and usually went back to where we were staying. One night after church we went to dinner with the pastor and several of the elders of the church. I couldn’t believe my eyes when the pastor handed me a beer!!! I looked up and down the table and saw that all the elders of the church had a beer or a glass of wine, and the pastor’s son, the same age as me had a beer too!!! I was in shock, but I politely declined and let him know I would stick with the water. “Oh NO” he said. “No one drinks the water, it will make you sick.”
I was brought up thinking that if you drank beer, you immediately went to hell, no second chances, no way. Only sinners drank beer, certainly not a professing Christian, and DEFINITELY not a pastor. I didn’t know what to think. Was this man of God going straight to hell, or was the problem more of a cultural problem than a God problem? He wasn’t getting drunk, he just had a beer with dinner. He was under control of his body and his mind. I just couldn’t believe that this was OK.
I found out that in the Portuguese culture everyone drinks beer or wine with their meals. I also found out that all the women kiss you when they greet you, (I was SO STOKED) then I found out that the men kiss you too (bummer, not quite so stoked). Anyway, my point is that this was a totally different culture, not wrong, not bad, just different. So what do you do in this kind of situation? Me? I had my first beer (sorry mom).

16 comments:

Thomas Costello said...

I remember havng a similar encounter when I was in england. We went to a youth group and after their meeting we went to the local pub, where the youth pastor proceeded to buy a kid who had just turned 18 his first beer. This was a youth group event and all the kids applauded as he took his first guzzle. Rocked my world. The question is how do we approach it in our culture. Granted it is different there than it is here, but how are we to handle this in our country. I say this with complete openess to both sides. I am currently not a drinker, for employment reasons among others, but at the same time I bartended my way through Bible College. I am working this one out still in my own mind, but I am glad to see a discussion going.

Gina said...

Jimmy, I remember years ago, my dad freaking out one time because there was beer in our refrigerator. He was very hostile about it. It turns out that my sister had it there to use later as snail bait. My dad didn't care, he still was not comfortable with beer in the fridge. And before my grandparents would come to visit, we'd have to go through the kitchen and take out anything offensive and hide it, not even cooking wine. It does seem out of control doesn't it? I love that Italians raise their children drinking wine with dinner. They start out watering it down but by age 12 or so, a glass of wine is no big deal. And as Ben so thougtfully said, WTF? I appreciate that when I came over to your house for the worship hang out that I could drink a beer without it being wierd (hope that didn't get you in trouble in any way). Thanks. Isn't it hard, though, weighing the whole "don't cause anyone to stumble" verse? It's so great and freeing to just say, "deal with it," but at the same time I know at more naive times in my life I would have reacted totally different to someone if I had seen them drinking a beer. Whattaya think?

Brian Andresen said...

From my reading of Paul's letters, what I've learned is that it's not so much what I do that matters as it is my heart attitude. Romans 14 and I Corinthians 8 are prime examples... I'd paraphrase and amplify his point as this (with some additional material pulled in from I Corinthians 5 and Ephesians 4):

Make God the sole desire of your heart, and then do as it seems best to you [with the Holy Spirit as your guide]. Do not judge or spite others within the church for how they carry themselves, but bear with one another in unity. Keep your focus on drawing closer to the one living God, and encourage your brothers in the same. But if a part of your church is in deliberate, prideful rebellion against God, answer this not with grace but by removing this poison from your midst. [In contrast, anything less than deliberate rebellion should be covered over with grace and love.](Bracketed parts are more from my own understanding and derivations; the rest is my faithful attempt to condense many paragraphs of Paul's writing.)

So if I'm honestly inviting God's wisdom into every decision I make, I trust that the Holy Spirit will be quite clear about what is acceptable for me for right now, and what is not. The usual problem, of course, is that we get off on our own out in the weeds, and then it's hard to tell which direction to go on just about anything.

As for the question Thomas raised — how do we handle this question in our culture — it seems that the admonition in Romans 14:21 is most apt. Does a beer pull me, or anyone in my company, farther away from Jesus? Best to leave it alone then. (If my heart is aligned with God's, then there's no way I could find satisfaction in a beverage if by that I would cause spiritual distress for my brother.) If there is truly no spiritual effect, then the decision to have it is truly of no consequence. Judging the difference between these two scenarios is left as an exercise for the reader. ;-)

WhosTheBoss said...

In Judaism drinking wine is culturally and religiously acceptable. On Purim you're supposed to get so drunk that you can't differentiate between haman and mordechai. I guess that's why I stay Jewish...for the booze of course.

Thomas Costello said...

In response to Brians post on this topic, How often do we come by these idilic circumstances where we can be sure that no one within eyesight could be negatively affected by our drinking. How well do we have to know even our friends to be sure that this would not cause them to stumble. Can we as Christians drink in a crowded restraunt not knowing the condition of the hearts of the other patrons? To take it a step further, can we do this and sill be in ministry as we are all called to be? How sensitive do we need to be?

Gina said...

AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Gina said...

Thanks Katie for interpreting my AAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!!! You know! -Gina

ben said...

I wonder where I can go on a missions trip where they drink whiskey instead of water?
Fingers crossed.

Jim, check out my blog, it's changed to www.passingthepresent.blogspot.com
Sorry for the blatant advertisement, make sure none of your parish goes to my site, I'll feel bad for corrupting them;) Jokes.

jimmy said...

I know a guy that went to Russia on a missions trip and they served vodka to him all the time. Hard to preach when you're heavily buzzed...... I mean... I've heard.... you know.

lee said...

i wasted a great deal of my college years due to being, oh, well...wasted...

i was raised in a very strict manner that tolerated absolutely NO alcohol of any kind & i think this contributed to my drinking during that time. i mean, once i was free to choose for myself, i was ill-prepared to practice this new found liberty in moderation. pledging a frat didn't help much...

i struggled with this for a long freakin' time til i've come to where i'm at now...married w/3 kids who i want to see their daddy drink & do so moderately, appropriately and most importantly biblically, so that when the time comes for them to decide they'll be able to do so after seeing it modeled correctly...

all too often people i know whip out the ol' stumbling block as a lame excuse, rather than pursuing liberty...

they're pious zealotry becomes their righteousness & salvation at that point rather than Christ...

krawdaddee said...

as an ex-elder at the age of 30, i've often smoked cigars and drank whiskey with my pastor on his deck. dear pastor jimmy, are the reverend and i going to hell? they were rather good cigars, does that help? recenlty the cigars have been from cuba, bought on a trip to visit my missionary sister in berlin. surely its ok if they're cuban cigars...

jimmy said...

Yes, if it's cuban...it's OK. If God hadn't intended us to smoke Cuban cigars he would have made Cuba famous for its....... I don't know....... Cabbage, or something.

g_grond said...

I've shared a couple cubans with Krawdaddee. Let's just say there's a reason why he's an ex-elder...

krawdaddee said...

ouch. how'd you like to be "ex-pastor." considering the dirt i have on you, sucker ...

fraeulein said...

I spent a lot of time overseas and what I realized there is that alcohol is not an issue, nor a temptation. It is a part of life, considered an important part of their health and routine. As much as it is an essential part of the European's health, they consider indulgence to be of bad taste and frankly not even a matter of contention. When I was living in Paris, I never saw people drink more then 2 glasses of wine with a very long dinner. I never saw them drink to get drunk, or even become tipsy. I am not suggesting that everyone(especially those not raised without the understanding and appreciation of limits)should follow such an example ,but isn't it a reminder of where we should be looking? First and foremost, our lives are to be focused on Him and our own business. If we are walking with God, I believe and trust that the Holy Spirit will guide me in all my steps..to have a glass or not to have a glass, could depend on the situation, my mood or physical state, but rules abour such things are dangerous. I want to behave and choose to be a certain way in my life because I feel it and convicted is the most edifying way for me to be who I am and fulfill my purpose, not because I may be viewed as following all of the expectations and living within the perimeters provided by those before me. Individuality is a necessity, we should embrace our differences, not get bogged down by expectations, this can take away from our flexibility or allowing God to deal with us and work through us in ways we may not understand because it may not align with what we see as acceptable behavior..I believe as Christians we have much greater concerns, just grasping the concept of Christlike love in our lives is enough to perplex one for a lifetime..I want to put all of my energy into treating people with all of the love and kindness that Jesus shows me, if I can display this with the genuine intention of my heart, whether I am sipping a glass of red seems obscure and obsolete..

Anonymous said...

Jimmy's Mom was raised in a home dominated by an abusive alcaholic. On our wedding day Her uncle gave Me Her hand to be wed because her father had drunk himself into the hospital, pratically killing himself. Such a back ground could cause one to teach, take a drink go to hell etc... Legalism is not a good answer but for some it is the only solution to salve the heart and mind. There is a standard to identify the christian life, the fruit in the christian life is a good start. What is YOUR LOVE !