In my last post, I asked the question, “What kind of wine did Jesus drink?” As I said then, we really have no reason to think that Jesus drank wine any different from wine today, fermented grape juice at about 9-12% AOC.
For many Christians around the world, this question is itself unnecessary, but for some Christians in the United States, it can be uncomfortable because of our history with Prohibition and the Evangelical church’s tendency to abstain completely from alcohol.
The bigger question, at least for many American Christians is: “What kind of wine would Jesus drink today?” Or, to put it plainly. If Jesus were here today, would He drink alcohol at all? While vacationing in Europe? While taking communion in Russia? While at a wedding? (hint, he did drink wine in occasions similar to all of these)
In essence, would Jesus himself use the same reasons that some use to not drink today… I don’t want to be a stumbling block (Christian Colloquialism, “to lead another person to sin”)… I don’t want to even have the appearance of evil… I have a relative that is an alcoholic, so I risk becoming one too.
As a child of the culture from where these questions come… I understand them. But, in short, I think they are superfluous. Certainly Jesus wasn’t afraid of being a temptation to others by not following the rules (he broke Sabbath laws on occasion), or being identified with the wrong crowd (he hung out with crazies and prostitutes), or worried about becoming the town drunk… “you know THAT addicted son of the carpenter.”
In fact, I think Jesus would have redeemed these stereotypes by being exemplary in what he ate and drank. Why do I think this? Because he was pretty clear on externalisms… it wasn’t what you put in your mouth, but what was in your soul that counted. He was more concerned with how intoxicated people were in their love and generosity.
So really… what kind of wine would Jesus drink today? Here’s a few thoughts.
- Likely something produced around culture and quality and not inebriation. I don’t think Jesus would be too interested in hard liquor distilled only for higher alcohol content.
- I don’t think he would be too interested in cheap, mass-produced alcohol marketed with sexuality, sports, or fame.
- I do think he would appreciate something close to the earth, which He created! In my Frenchness… I would say something from the Burgundy region where red pinot noir grapes and white Chardonnay grapes grow in their natural habitat, right where he put them at The Beginning!
- I think he would drink with family and friends, around a table and around a meal and conversations. I think he would toast to friendship, to God’s graces, and to accomplishments great and small.
- I think he would drink soberly… that is, practice moderation, self-control, and even self-denial (which can include fasting and even total abstinence from alcohol as a positive spiritual discipline).
- I think he would encourage accountability when friends he loves struggle with overindulging themselves with drink, food, money, or power.
- I think he would respect others, even those without the same liberty he has to drink (i.e. accepting the weaker brother as we see in Romans 14).
Many good reasons not to drink… and one very bad one.
As I said in my first blog, I totally respect those who chose not to drink alcohol. There are certainly some excellent reasons to not drink at all (especially addiction). In fact, nearly any reason is good enough for me except one. Unfortunately, it is this one that some Christians have most focused on in… because drinking is wrong. If you are a Christian in the United States in certain circles, you just don’t drink. It’s just not what Christians do; and you’re probably sinning if you do!
Forming the heart
Regrettably, this easier, more external response has taken the place of more helpful questions like: Why am I drinking in the first place? Should I drink here, in this context? What and how much should I drink? How can we exemplify self-control and work to counter a culture of alcohol abuse? And, how can we talk with our children and others about drinking and the risks of alcoholism without shortcutting thinking and character formation?
These questions focus on forming our heart and they may help us connect with others who find the position of total abstinence confusing or even intellectually dishonest or legalistic. It seems obvious to me that as a society, we need to drink less. but, drawing a line in the sand only creates a protected space for excessive drinking to flourish. Creating an alternative, more healthy narrative around drinking allows us to redeem what has been lost… including this aspect of character formation and self-control which our society so desperately needs.