Alcohol & Christian Liberty
Some Christians today are referring to the social and recreational consumption of modern day alcoholic beverages as a Christian liberty. By referring to it as such, it is said that there is justification for modern consumption. What is the liberty that Christians enjoy in Christ and how does it relate to modern day alcoholic beverages?
First, Christian liberty is not our ticket to live as we please. It is defined in the New Testament as the “perfect law” which one can look intently at, listen to, and abide by (Jas 1:22-25). That Christian liberty is a “law” should not surprise us since any action that is given liberty by God is considered “lawful”. It includes laws such as loving our neighbor, not showing partiality, not committing adultery or murder, etc. (Jas 2:8-13). It is also a law of truth in that it sets us free as long as we are willing to continue in Christ’s word (John 8:31-32) and stand firm (Gal 5:1) in the faith. Therefore, since Christian liberty is a law, there are restrictions in how it can be applied, for “whatever you do in word or deed” we must do “all in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Col 3:17).
Second, understanding that there are limitations to what falls under the scope of Christian liberty is crucial to bringing clarity to some of our religious differences. There are too many ad hominem allegations of “legalism” and “Phariseeism” thrown around against those who are trying hard to understand and reason God’s will from scripture on subjects such as the modern day recreational consumption of alcohol. We cannot honor Jesus’ prayer for the unity of all believers (John 17:20-23) with such careless name-calling. If some are truly being legalistic in their thinking, running to the opposite extreme by irresponsibly claiming “license” will not solve the problem. “License”, the root word for “licentiousness”, is the idea in mind that anything not explicitly forbidden in scripture is acceptable. It is the idea that as long as your own personal conscience isn’t offended, you can then act as you please. Christian liberty, however, is never a license to do whatever we want to do. And even if it can be proven that we are free to do something, we may need to avoid that action anyway because of its potential to lead others to sin. 1 Pet 2:16 – “Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God.”
Third, with the wealth of evidence we have in the bible as well as collaborating historical references that demonstrate why it is wise for a Christian to abstain from the modern day recreational consumption of alcoholic beverages, my deep fear is that some are using the phrase “Christian liberty” merely as a proverbial catch-all to justify their fleshly desire to consume alcohol. We owe Jesus so much more than that. My sincerest desire is that we not turn a blind eye to the evidence and that we continue to seek God’s authority for any action we deem falls within the scope of Christian liberty. Let our liberty in Christ be an influencing factor that truly sets men free rather than posing the threat of further enslaving men to bondage as a result of their consumption of recreational intoxicants, depressants, and narcotics.