Hi, I’m Deon, and I’m not an alcoholic.
“We love you, Deon!”
I don’t want a drink today. I might not have one until Friday, or Saturday after work. I might not have one at all. Or maybe I will. Probably not, not that it should matter to you at all.
It might matter to you, for any of a variety of reasons. I’m frequently depressed. Perhaps you would worry that I might get drunk to forget about it. For some people, one drink always leads to another drink, and you might worry that I’m an alcoholic. There are certain religious groups that abstain from all mind-altering drugs, including caffeine and alcohol. For them, if I have a single drink I’m sinning. For some religious groups, drunkenness is frowned upon, so if I get drunk it’s a sin also. But wait. Am I really sinning if I have one or two and stay relatively sober? Or am I only a sinner in the eyes of the teetotaler? I’m not as young as I once was. Sometimes I get headaches or body aches or stiffness, or I’m mentally tense, and I want to relax after a difficult day at work.
I’ve only read the Bible so I can only talk about what that book says. What you’re doing, inasmuch as it pertains to your own body, is fine. But if you’re judging me because I might have one or two, stop it. I’m not you so I don’t have to live up to your holier-than-thou standards. You win, you don’t drink, you’re holier than I am and that’s fine for you, and your place in heaven is secure in your mind (see also Isaiah 65:1-21). However, may I point out that the fact that you’re judging me means you’re sinning under Matthew 7:1, and you’re throwing your pearls of wisdom about abstinence to me, and I’m just a pig, ok, so the best thing I might do is ignore you (Matthew 7:6). Stop wasting your time on me. It’s true your holy text does say not to be drunk (Ephesians 5:18). But the same author advocated moderate indulgence to one of his disciples (I Tim 5:23). I’ll moderately indulge when I want to, thank you very much.
There are 4 cups of real wine in any proper Passover Seder, not your wimpy grape juice. So when you celebrate what you call communion, your grape juice doesn’t cut it, traditionally, which is why when the Christ followers in the Bible got together for their traditional meal and commemoration, sometimes they were getting drunk. And the cup Jesus stopped at was #3, the cup of judgement. He drank that one, first as a cup of literal wine that symbolized acceptance of judgement, then as a metaphoric drink, a “cup” of judgement, death on the cross. After the wine at the supper he went out to pray and asked for the metaphoric “cup” to pass from him if there was any other way to save us. He didn’t drink the last cup, reserving it for the eternal Kingdom. Understanding this makes the symbol, and his abstention from the fourth cup, more meaningful.
You celebrate communion with your one, tiny, ignorant cup nowadays, and it’s filled with grape juice. That’s fine for you, you are remembering Christ’s death. If you were raised in a typical Christian church, you probably didn’t know there were 3 more cups and you didn’t know what the other three cups were about. You may not have even known the cup we drink is the cup of judgement. Some pastors even rewrite and ignore scriptures and teach that Jesus drank only grape juice. Those inconvenient texts! From the Old Testament, Proverbs 31 is pretty clear. Wine isn’t for people to drink on the job, who have heavy responsibilities, for example a king or a judge. Or in the modern era, someone driving a car! Alcohol is to be used as an antidepressant and an analgesic. But it’s allowed, even here in the Old Testament. Proverbs 23 is also clear. If you spend a lot of time hanging out with drunken partiers and gluttons, you’ll end up broke, and you won’t be able to work because you’re hung over or sleeping it off. And the last inconvenience I’d draw to your attention is the fact that Jesus said people called him a “gluttonous winebibber” (here read “fat drunkard”) and a “friend of tax collectors and sinners” (here read “hangs out with the dregs of society,” “less than reputable people”). (See Matthew 11:19; and Luke 7:34) My conclusion is that Jesus, until the “Last Supper,” was known as a man who drank wine. I don’t think that anyone would have called him that if he was a model of abstinence.
Friends, I commend to you moderate, responsible indulgence, unless for you one means one 12-pack. If you’re happy, if you’re young and your bones and muscles don’t ache, maybe you don’t need it or want it and that’s fine for you. If one means one 12-pack, maybe you shouldn’t start, and that’s fine for you. If you’re driving, just don’t, because I might have friends or family in your pathway, and if you kill them or maim them because you were incapacitated, I’m going to be royally pissed. If you’re under age, according to the law of the country, or the state, just don’t. I won’t condone law breaking even if I did it when I was a kid. “[I] learned obedience [(and moderation)] through the things that [I] suffered.” It’s not contextually relevant to my misspent youth, but it’s funny- see Hebrews 5:8. I’ll even go farther than Jesus did, until I drink it new with him in my Father’s kingdom, at least most of the time. I’ll stop at 3. But more often than not, I’ll stop at two because I don’t want to get drunk. That lesson from my misspent youth was the worst hangover I’ve ever had, before or since. Never again, at least not in this life.
This talk of spiritual things might be good for me. Look, ma! No swears!