My late father-in-law was a wonderful man of faith. He was a humble servant, the most Christ-like person I ever knew. Part of his walk with the Lord meant not drinking alcohol.
There are lots of reasons not to drink. Alcohol abuse claims 100,000 lives in the US every year. The scope of personal tragedy is unthinkable. The CDC estimates the economic toll at a quarter trillion dollars.
But that’s not why Lonnie didn’t drink. Like a lot of people born during Prohibition, he’d been taught that drinking was a deadly sin.
So, I asked him, how could it be that Jesus’ first miracle was turning water into wine? It was because he came from a faith tradition which taught that it wasn’t wine that Jesus made, but grape juice.
Well, no. In Isaiah 25:6, the prophet pointed to a future where “the Lord Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine.” Jesus turned water to wine, showing he had come to fulfill God’s promise.
The Apostle Paul advised Timothy to drink wine for his health. Wine was probably safer than the water back then.
In Luke 18, Jesus told a parable of two men who went to the temple to pray. One, a religious insider, reminded God that he was better than other people, like tax collectors, and that he fasted twice a week. The other, a tax collector, just beat his breast and pleaded for mercy.
Here’s the thing. Just as God doesn’t require us to “fast twice a week,” he doesn’t give us extra credit for not drinking. God gave us wine to be enjoyed, a sign of his abundant provision for us.
Now, my father-in-law lived a joyous life; he never missed out on a thing.
But drinking is not a deadly sin.
It’s sin that often makes drinking deadly.
It’s also sin that leads us to make rules God never intended.