This entry is part [part not set] of 7 in the series Question of the Week

It has been a while now since Preston’s thought provoking posts on alcohol. But since the proper use of Christian freedoms in general and alcohol in particular always make for interesting discussion, I will share a real life scenario that happened to me a few years ago (1998 in fact—not sure if that counts as a few years or not).

I was teaching and coaching in the public school system. I was serving as a part of a church body that had a zero tolerance policy on any sort of alcohol. Well, over the course of time I built a good relationship with the parents of various students I had. One dad in particular invited me out one day after practice “to have a beer and talk about life.” I tried the gracious redirect: “I would love to go hang out (without alcohol) and talk about life with you.” He was not interested. This happened in some form three more times over the next month and a half. He would ask to talk about life and partake in some libation. I always tried to find an alternative (drink a soda, have a meal, etc.), but he always declined.

One last bit of information: consuming alcohol did not bother my conscience at all, I was simply trying to be consistent with the church body I was a part of.

So here is the question:

Was I wrong to abstain from sharing a beer with this guy?


Was I right to abstain?

What should I have done?  Have at it…

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  1. You should have prayed for the church you were attending.

    The few times I have come up against area’s of disagreement I have always deferred to my elders. When I was younger I was a little disrespectful about this, as God has matured me I have made a point to respectfully let my disagreements be made known to at least one of the elders. I have chosen (or been chosen by God) to sit under their authority, as they wrestle with the scriptures. I don’t get to pick and choose, they are elders for a reason.

  2. How about an alternative view: is it possible that he was put off more by the way you said it? How about saying “sure!” to the invite then when you reach the pub simply order a soda with little fanfare; or YOU call him and say “I’m heading to Starbucks, let’s meet!”. When at someone’s house, no one has ever raised an eyebrow when I say “just a water for me!”.

    In my personal experience, I’ve never heard a non-Christian (who didn’t have a drinking problem) say that a beer was a pre-requisite for getting together but I’ve heard plenty of Christians say “I’d better have a beer so they’ll want to get together.” which often just sounds like an excuse to have a beer.

    • Erin,

      You raise a great point. I am sure in the rhetoric of the situation, minimizing options could have lead to the negative response. While if I was a little more thoughtful/strategic in my response it could have resulted in a win/win scenario.

      (ah once again the issue of maturity, or lack thereof, seems to be most pressing)

  3. I’m going to side with KJ above. I think submission to the elders is a huge principle in Scripture and shouldn’t be violated in this instance. Plus, with Erin, I think there’s something that smells a bit too pragmatic about having a beer in order to begin the path of evangelism. I do think that the taboo of drinking in some Christian circles is pharisaic clutter that hinders the gospel from going forth more effectively. At the same time, I don’t think God, who opens the heart, would want someone to violate a clear biblical command (submit to elders) in order to uphold a pragmatic means of evangelism.

  4. Agree totally, with everyone…while working at a religious institution early in my career I just did my best to drink where they wouldn’t see…but maturity has shown me the poor attitude, pride and lack of integrity that revealed…I wish I would have abstained. Although I did mention my disagreement to leadership and I do think that is a good point

  5. Is the freedom to drink alcohol an important enough issue that potential disagreements with policy needs to be mentioned to church leadership? I tend to think if drinking is that important to you then it’s too important to you.

  6. Spencer,

    Let’s pretend its 1998. We can never know what’s in a man’s heart until he invites us. In my case, alcohol would provide a buffer for my temperment with an deep topic such as life. And a catalyst to open up and be vulnerable to receive. He may be reaching out to confess something that is binding. That is my hope! In which case, I believe you should go and look for opportunity to bear with him. Jesus had dinner at Matthew’s house, and walked him straight out of his bondage. He’s persistent, and that tells me there’s something more personal beneath the surface. Or that could be juvenile discernment. I think if you decide to entertain him, then you must decide to eventually lead the friendship away from the alcohol. Shephard-like! But absolutely no compromise in your heart! At that point you’ve compromised too much with your job.

    The answer to your question is yes.

  7. First of all Spencer, are you any more mature today than you were in 1998? Uh, I doubt it!
    But I know without a doubt that you have grown in your faith and knowledge of our Lord. Personally, I believe you would have been AOK with sharing a beer with him, but it’s the “getting drunk” part is where you fall in to sin.

  8. Hi Spencer, I would say the answer needs to be answered by you.
    What is legal, (conscience directed by the Holy Spirit) will always be different to each of us and in different situations. (Boy when I wrote that I had to make sure I was saying it right, hope I did)
    Was he wanting to “test” your commitment to your churches beliefs? What was his real motive behind asking you for having a beer with him and then refusing to meet if you didn’t have a cold one?
    If the guy really wanted to talk with you then having a beer or not having a beer would not have mattered to him.
    So the question I have is; was he offering a light beer, amber or a good stout? That may have changed the decision, just kidding.

  9. Were you under some obligation to hold this person accountable to your church’s zero-tolerance policy? It sounds like he was not a part of your church body, so looking back I would see no harm in going out for drinks and still abstaining (unless this was in violation of the policy, as well). Good ol’ Arnold Palmer, to the rescue.