I grew up in a home without alcohol. If Mom and Dad ever had wine, we children didn’t know about it. We saw the ill effects of alcoholism, and a large part of our ministry was to model a life in which Christ provided all that was needed to fill those voids so many tried to fill with drink.
There were two kinds of drunks around us, each largely confined to the two major native Bolivian groups of people with whom my parents worked. Among the Cechua, descendants of the Incas, a drunken binge usually resulted in “sleeping it off.” So it was not uncommon to see a man curled up on some grassy place along a street as he slept off his stupor. Drunkenness among the Aymara, a pre-Incan people, was a different story. Drunk Aymaras got violent. I remember the truck we were riding in through an Aymara village being pelted with rocks thrown at us by a drunk.
So, I suppose it was a bit of a shock when, at a barbecue held to bid us farewell just a few days before we left Bolivia the last time, Dad was offered a bottle of cervesa. I wasn’t sure what to think, but as he was cheered on by the congregants, he tipped the bottle to his lips and drank. He later explained to us that refusing to participate with those who were saying their goodbyes would have been unnecessarily offensive.
Scripture is clear to condemn drunkenness as it is clear to condemn anything in excess. It is also clear to condemn selfishness and false piety. The struggle in the early church was over meat offered to idols, or as Pastor Paul said, offered to demons and not to God. So what was a believer to do when confronted with such a situation? Pastor Paul offered this advise. First, “eat whatever is set before you without raising any question on the ground of conscience.” Second, if someone says to you, ‘This has been offered in sacrifice,’ then do not eat it, for the sake of the one who informed you.” And finally, “whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:19-33)