Am I a Legalist If I Don’t Drink?

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Early in May, a very famous worship pastor posted a picture of himself enjoying a beer poolside. It was innocent enough; he was just enjoying the warm weather, good friends, and a cold brew. I’ve seen stuff like this 1,000 times on Facebook and Instagram. Yet, for some reason it really bothered me, probably more than it should have.

I started thinking, “What was the point of that picture? Why did he make sure to capture the can of beer and post it on social media?”

It also kept making me ask myself the question “Am I a legalist if I don’t drink? Do I not fully understand freedom in Christ?”

I have been sober for nearly 8 years. Meaning, I don’t drink, at all, ever (except that one time I tried to impress my Italian in-laws by making vodka sauce for pasta, messed up the recipe, and didn’t cook out the vodka. That was accidental, I didn’t mean for my food to taste like a shot of Popov).

The last time I drank alcohol was at a wedding. I hadn’t been drinking as often (in college I drank just about every day for 5 years straight) so my tolerance was lower. I had several glasses of wine, got drunk and on the way home asked my husband to stop by a fast food place so I could eat. I never really eat fast food when I’m sober, but I’m drunk, I just want Del Taco or In-n-Out sooooo bad.

He said no. He didn’t want to stop there at midnight, so I could binge on a grilled cheese and fries. In my drunkenness I got angry and called him an “a*% hole” for not taking me there.

I woke up the next morning in complete shame and guilt. I was a Christian, involved in a bible study, my heart was sold out for the LORD, and I had just gotten drunk and called my husband an “a*% hole” the night before. And that was it for me. I knew I didn’t have a healthy, self-controlled relationship with booze.

Alcoholism runs on both sides of my family. I can remember as a child my uncle taking me to my friend’s house, and on the way he stopped to buy a bottle of vodka and told me “Now you can’t tell your mom and dad about this, okay?” He had been in lots of trouble for his drinking and wasn’t supposed to be drinking at all, and I saw from an early age the power of addiction. I visited another family member in the hospital after they had crashed their car into a tree as a result of drunk driving. The reality of what alcoholism can do was very real to me at an early age.

The first time I got drunk I was in 8th grade. I had a fake ID at age 17 and made some terrible choices from the time I was 17-22 that I would give anything to give back. Thankfully, by the power of Christ and the freedom in the Gospel, I don’t have to live in shame and guilt anymore. I know that Jesus has not only saved me and forgiven me of my sin, He gives me the power daily to no longer walk in bondage to that sin.

I say all of this, because I have noticed in the past couple of years this trend among Christians to post pictures of themselves drinking. Summer is approaching, beer will be flowing, drinks will be offered at parties, and I will feel more and more like the weaker brother every time I see those pictures go up on social media.

And I’m not really sure the point of all of this? Is posting a picture of your cocktail or beer really helpful?

I get it. You don’t want people to think you’re one of those “rule following, exclusive, legalistic Christians”.  Sadly, there have been Christians that have turned alcohol into a black and white issue, and said that all drinking is bad, etc. I’m not saying that. The bible doesn’t say that. If you don’t struggle with drunkenness, then having a glass of wine or a drink is a gift from the LORD to be enjoyed! “Do not get drunk with wine” (Ephesians 5:18) IS in Scripture. “Do not drink wine” is NOT in Scripture. Obeying His word is not legalism, adding to it is.

Drinking alcohol is not a sin. Being led astray or controlled by it is.

I’m grateful for the example my husband was to me early on when it came to alcohol. He was not controlled by it, in fact seeing that he could have just one drink and not get drunk or have a need for more, made me realize there was another way to live.

So again, I’m not saying not to drink, we keep alcohol in our house, serve wine to our guests at dinner, I just don’t partake. I’m just asking you to consider that there are people who have a very real struggle and addiction to alcohol, and to just be aware of that.

When you post that picture or status update of yourself holding a cold brew, is it helpful? Is it really about helping others walk in freedom?

Do you think about others who may stumble because of this?

Have you ever sat with someone in recovery and heard their story?

If you have freedom to drink alcohol, great! Enjoy it. But do you have to post about it?

And most of all, please don’t judge, criticize, tease or accuse of legalism those who have had to make the decision to stay sober. I hope there is wine in Heaven. It will be good! And I will be able to enjoy it because my sin nature will be gone, and I won’t have to struggle with getting drunk and cussing at my husband.

Some helpful verses on what the bible says about drinking and drunkenness:

Proverbs 20:11 Corinthians 6:9-11, Titus 2:3, Ephesians 5:15-21

For more of my journey read here:  From the Bars to the Pews

Other articles that are helpful when considering alcohol around people who are sober:

10 Things You Should Never Say to a Sober Person

Why I Gave Up Alcohol

 

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7 thoughts on “Am I a Legalist If I Don’t Drink?

  1. Tiffany Gejeian says:

    Thankful for your honesty. Very well put… I am completely on the same page as you. Thankful someone has the courage to talk about things that matter. Love you friend!

  2. yvonne says:

    I love watching you follow Jesus. Grateful for your courage to process harder topics and approaching them with truth and grace.

  3. Katrina Irwin says:

    Thank you for writing about such a hot button issue. I recently, within the last year, felt that God was calling me to stop drinking as well. I never thought of myself as an alcoholic, however, I know that when I did drink, I made very poor choices. Like asking my guy friend for his hand in marriage. Lol. Needless to say, it was time for me to grow up and take God’s love for me seriously. I was setting myself up for failure and still living in the pit. It is not always easy, but so glad I did make the choice to stop drinking. Thanks again!

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