…not given to drunkenness (Titus 1:7c)
As they say in the country, “Now you’ve gone to meddling!
Alcohol has never been a part of my family or personal life. Well, this may not exactly be true. You see, my father’s father was a “problem drinker” and my father almost followed in his footsteps. But when he gave his life to Christ, he turned his back on drinking and some of the ills it had produced in his family. So, in some ways, my father’s experiences with the effects of alcohol did impact our home…in a good way, I think.
But I also want you to know I am not a crusader on the subject. If I attend a community event and people sit down next to me with alcoholic drinks, it doesn’t bother me. And if I am at a race track and lots of people around me have beers in their hands, I don’t pay any attention to it (as long as they don’t spill it on me).
However, when I see Christian people drink in excess or see Internet posts of young believers celebrating their first drink, I am disappointed. And, as many do, when I hear about someone’s life that has been ended by a drunk driver, I get very angry. Some of my feelings are misdirected, I’ll admit, because I often see the horrific effects of alcohol in my ministry, and because of my upbringing. But some of it is justified. The Bible doesn’t condemn the drinking of alcohol, but it does drunkenness, and I fear more people than we would like to admit don’t understand or care about the difference between the two.
This morning’s character reference for elders simply means they are not to be drunk. It does not prohibit them from drinking alcohol in moderation. But as I write this, I appeal to leaders everywhere to consider their witness as leaders, and recognize how important it is for them to show the utmost moderation in this area, and possibly even forego their liberty to drink alcohol altogether. Realize this is just an appeal based on my personal observation and ministry to those whose lives have been destroyed by alcohol. It is not a directive from scripture.
But let’s get back to the matter at hand: drunkenness. Someone who is under the influence of alcohol has an impaired judgment. They are not capable of acting on the foundational principles that normally guide their lives, and they sometimes say and do things that hurt others. Although I am not familiar with drinking first hand, I do understand some people can drink more than others and still manage their behavior to a point. But I also know there are those who delude themselves into thinking they are in control of their faculties, when in fact they are not.
It is easy to see why drunkenness would not set a good tone for spiritual leadership. It would be damaging to one’s ability to make wise decisions or contribute to the collective wisdom of a leadership body. And if a congregation had a ministry to people recovering from the abuse of alcohol it would undermine any serious notion that the church was sensitive to their circumstances.
I hope I have been fair on this subject, while sharing my personal perspective. And while I don’t have a problem with alcohol, please know I have lots of other issues. As a friend of mine likes to remind me, “We all got issues.”
Dear God, help me see leadership from other people’s perspective. In Jesus’ name, Amen.