Dear Brother in Christ,
Blessings to you in the name of our Savior and Lord, Christ Jesus.
I wanted to thank you for your web site and all it has to offer. I also appreciate your membership newsletter. That is what drew my attention to this article regarding alcohol.
As a recovered alcoholic, I can share in your sadness at burying someone who has died as a result of alcohol. While in recovery I have had to say goodbye to many who have died "an alcoholic death," including one of my brothers. He and I had an almost 30-year history of drinking, drugging, and carousing together. Yet, two years after God called me out of the pit, my brother died with a blood-alcohol content of nearly .198%. Nearly double the level in Colorado that is set for intoxication.
Many times, I have asked myself why I am alive and sober today, yet my brother is not. We both had the same opportunities. Alcoholics Anonymous, treatment centers and God were equally available to both of us. Yet he chose to continue to drink and die. I chose to stop drinking and live. He had my example before him, both in drunkenness and sobriety. Yet the fact that I could and did recover from my disease had no effect on him.
I mention this because you stated in your article that, "I'm certain that if I took a single friendly sip, it would grant my precious flock license to slug back whole cases from now until the Second Coming."
While I realize the standard for elders in the church are high for the very purpose of setting a good and proper example, there is one who is higher than you and I who did many things that the people of his time found objectionable. Case in point...
"For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine; and you say, `He has a demon.' The Son of man has come eating and drinking; and you say, `Behold, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!' Yet wisdom is justified by all her children."
Luke 7:33-35 (RSV)
If our Lord Jesus can sit and eat and drink with publicans and sinners, what does that say about our mindset today? Would we feel any different today if we witnessed our Lord in such an activity? I think not. I think we would be just as shocked and outraged. "Lord, how could you?" we would indignantly ask. It would be good for us to consider Psalm 123, particularly verse 3, “Have mercy on us, O Lord, have mercy on us! For we are exceedingly filled with contempt”
What we must beware of is not damage to our belief in God but damage to our Christian disposition or state of mind. “Take heed to your spirit, that you do not deal treacherously” (Malachi 2:16). Our state of mind is powerful in its effects. It can be the enemy that penetrates right into our soul and distracts our mind from God. There are certain attitudes we should never dare to indulge. If we do, we will find they have distracted us from faith in God. Until we get back into a quiet mood before Him, our faith is of no value, and our confidence in the flesh and in human ingenuity is what rules our lives.
Beware of “the cares of this world ” (Mark 4:19). They are the very things that produce the wrong attitudes in our soul. It is incredible what enormous power there is in simple things to distract our attention away from God. Refuse to be swamped by “the cares of this world.”
Another thing that distracts us is our passion for vindication. St. Augustine prayed, “O Lord, deliver me from this lust of always vindicating myself.” Such a need for constant vindication destroys our soul’s faith in God. Don’t say, “I must explain myself,” or, “I must get people to understand.” Our Lord never explained anything—He left the misunderstandings or misconceptions of others to correct themselves.
When we discern that other people are not growing spiritually and allow that discernment to turn to criticism, we block our fellowship with God. God never gives us discernment so that we may criticize, but that we may intercede.
I pray that we all allow others the same freedom of choice that God allows us, and that as we "speak the truth in love" (Ephesians 4:15), that we avoid being critical or judgmental of others. Lord, help us to "not think of ourselves more highly than we ought, but rather think of ourselves with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given us. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other. Let us do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than us. (Romans 12:3; Galatians 5:26; Philippians 2:3)
Let us not grumble against each other. Rather, let us pray for each other so that we may be healed. Above all, let us love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Let us encourage one another and build each other up. (James 5:9, 16; 1 Peter 4:8; 1 Thessalonians 5:11)
We thank you, Holy Father in Heaven, for your mercy and grace. Please help us show that same mercy and grace to on another. In Jesus name we pray. Amen.