This oughta be fun.
I have a love/hate relationship with alcohol. I love it because when used to the glory of God it tastes good, helps build community, helps relax, and provides some excellent times of marital oneness. I hate it because when people I know have abused it I have personally experienced: a drunk dad until mid-grade school, a dad in and out of rehab throughout 2nd and 3rd grade, friends loosing family members, friends doing things sexually they wouldn’t like to do normally, me doing things sexually I wouldn’t like to do normally, loosing friends, and watching people waste their life.
That being said, up until this past year I have almost exclusively been a beer man. I love Ales, have a soft spot for good European lagers (no Carlsbad that does not mean you) and American wheats, with my favorite beer being an Indian Pale Ale. Recently I have expanded my palate. Here are the three types of alcohol I would prefer not to live without:
- Deep Red Wines
- Straight Bourbon Whiskey
- Hoppy American Ales
There are some alcohols that I just cannot do. I can’t stand gin (so there goes my hope of being James Bond), light beers (or most American lagers for that matter) and light rum (despite my love for Reggae, go figure).
I try not to be a legalist when it comes to alcohol, but sometimes being a legalist, rather setting general rules for oneself, is not a terrible idea. For example here are a few random rules I have set up for myself:
- Don’t flirt with girls unless I’m married to them
- Don’t kick babies in the face
- Don’t eat cheese unless its on pizza
- Don’t talk about your employer on your blog
- Don’t watch porn
See, making rules for your life can be helpful. They provide boundaries for which we can best live our life to the glory of God. Jesus said the two most important commandments in life are to holistically love God, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. I cannot do those if I am doing any of the above.
When dealing with something especially dangerous, it is even more helpful to have rules. For example, a father cannot love God and others while he leaves his gun out for his kids to play with. Owning a gun, while loving God and others, requires boundaries to enable us to best achieve fulfillment of the two most important commandments.
With this in mind, I have set-up some alcohol boundaries in my life to best allow me to drink alcohol while loving God and others:
- Be aware of my environment while drinking. Is there anyone around that my drinking might prevent loving, like a legalist Baptist (see. Rom 14), or a student I work with that struggles with alcoholism.
- Know my limits. For novice drinkers this looks more like setting a 1-2 drink limit. As one gets older their tolerance, ability to understand how different alcohols affect them, knowing how long the event is and how full their stomachs are allow for less strict guidelines and more spirit-filled discernment.
- Don’t take shots. I drink alcohol to enjoy the flavor. It usually takes me 30 minutes to an hour to drink a glass of wine. Shots generally lack flavor and generally exist to create a buzz. I have a hard time justifying how taking shots enables me to love God and others.
- Don’t drink light beer except for on a horribly hot Vegas day. Light beer was created to get people drunker on less calories. But man, on a hot Vegas day, hand me an ice cold Coors Light buddy.
- Don’t play drinking games. Flat out, drinking games exist to distract us in order to help us get drunk (note: distraction skips moral introspection). Now on the slight chance that you have an enormously high tolerance, and playing “tip-cup” will never get you drunk, others are. And you are more susceptible than if you weren’t. Seeing as how I have NEVER seen a drinking game played where the majority of people weren’t getting drunk as a result, I cannot love God and others by playing drinking games.
When I joined a fraternity and didn’t drink for a year because I wasn’t 21. I was respected for this. When I didn’t play drinking games with them, they bought me water or Gatorade so that we could still enjoy each others company. To this day I never buy my own drinks when I am around my fraternity brothers because they respect how I handle my alcohol, and are just excited I’m with them. This is a great testament to God’s grace in my life, because at age 18 that was the life he saved me from. And by his grace he made loving God and loving others more desirable than getting drunk.
I can honestly say that I have never felt uncomfortable being around my fraternity brothers in these environments, and that they have never felt uncomfortable by me being there (which you can speculate as to whether that is a good or bad thing). I cannot say the same for my Christian brothers and sisters. Twice over the past few weeks I have been asked to play drinking games by my Christian brothers and sisters. Both times I have gone out of my way from being preachy, although when discussing a players ethics in “tip-cup” there was an awkward moment when I questioned why morality was an issue.
I am not sure if my Christian brothers and sisters feel judged by me, or if I am so uncomfortable with the environment that I just make myself paranoid. I know that I have set-up my alcohol boundaries as personal way for me to best love God and others. Yet I cannot help but be saddened and deeply torn watching my brothers and sisters act in such a way. My prayer is that I would be known as a man who cares most about loving God and loving others, and not a legalistic jerk. Finding that grey line is much easier said than done.