July 13, 2006


[note: I had some really great pictures for this post, but go figure that blogger won't let me upload them. so use your imagination.]

There is a fine line between legalism and self-control. Self-control is when somebody sets guidelines to facilitate Godly behavior in their own life, based on their own issues.

Legalism is when somebody imposes their guidelines for personal self-control on the rest of us.

I think many churches have lapsed into the problem of imposing general guidlines on their people because they figure, "hey, if I have this problem, then everybody else must, and since I know the one possible way to combat the issue, I'll make everybody else do it too! Brilliant!" As if by creating another document, they can once and for all eliminate their congregations' confusion over what Godly behavior looks like.

For example, the latest declaration by the
SBC declares that consuming alcohol is wrong. I think this is really funny: petrol, also known as gasoline, which fuels cars is an alcohol. If we take this statement literally, it means that the SBC is encouraging people to stop using cars, planes, and any other form of electricity that might be an alcohol-derivative. Now, I'm all for environmentalism, and if you can get away with biking or walking instead of driving, fantastic; but something tells me that this isn't what they had in mind.

I know that they're not saying this literally, that they're referring to the sort of ethanol you drink. But if you read the thing, it never excludes gasoline. So much for literal interpretation.

The Wesleyans have had a problem with this for years. Pretty much the entire history of the Wesleyan church involves some form of "don't touch alcohol" or another and often discourages even going to a bar (it might be encouraging people to drink), despite the fact that Wesley himself was often in bars fraternizing with the pub-folk. I know that nobody (SBC or the Wesleyans) can tell you outright not to drink, or else; that's unconstitutional (and for SBC, goes against their coalition-like nature), and even they know that it's easier to guilt someone into doing something than to command them outright.

I'd like to point out to the Wesleyans and the Southern Baptists and anybody else that feels like listening. C.S. Lewis said that a vice is simply a virtue gone wrong. For example, alcohol is not something bad, and in fact, medical research suggests that having one alcoholic beverage (the latest research says it doesn't need to be red wine, as we used to think) each day improves the heart.

But I'd rather just look to scripture on the alcohol debate. Scripture is always a good place to turn, full of exciting and mysteriously confusing advice.

On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus' mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine was gone, Jesus' mother said to him, "They have no more wine."

"Mother, why do you involve me?" Jesus replied. "My hour has not yet come."

"Do whatever he tells you," she told the servants.

Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, "Fill the jars with water"; so they filled them to the brim. Then he told them, "Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet."

They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside and said, "Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now."

What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples put their faith in him.

Yes, that's right: Jesus turned water into wine. He didn't say "oh, you know it's bad for you" to the revelers (many of whom were drunk by now), but he made more. And not only more, but the best there was.

A word of caution: virtues usually turn to vices when the quantity is altered (too much or too little). While we may enjoy alcohol, overuse is probably why we tend to ban it in the first place. So to lead by example (as all leaders should), if we find we have issues with consistently over-consuming the stuff, then yes, deny yourself something that could turn to sin. And yes, we are to not participate in some "permissable" behavior if it causes another to stumble.

Lots of people abuse alcohol, but when they do, they're perverting a gift - turning a virtue into a vice. It's no reason to say "away with alcohol, nobody can drink now!" As leaders, we are to set a good example; partake and enjoy.

1 comment:

cruz-control said...

"Jesus turned water into wine, and evangelicals have been trying to turn it back ever since."

very nice post.

I think things of pleasure have their place in our lives. Recognizing that fact is realizing the ability to enjoy pleasure - an ability given to us by God. But as anything of this nature: food, alcohol, sex, (among many) - there are guidelines that we are given so as to enjoy these pleasures in the way God intended for us, and therefore the way that is most rewarding.

Doing any of these in excess and out of God's boundries is risking trouble. We are taking what God made to give us pleasure and being greedy with it.

I really liked your legalism/self-control distinction. We CHOOSE to be little Christs, and in that we choose to follow the will of God. We CHOOSE to follow His guidelines and conditions, because He is God. But it is still our choice, and we all do stuggle with different stuff.

very nice bro.