A Few Pastoral Thoughts On Alcohol
For many people, the battle with alcohol is very, very real.
Literally, every week I engage with individuals in the community where I pastor that have been ravaged by alcohol abuse. Some are now living on the streets, while others make six figures and appear on the outside to have everything put together. It takes different forms, but the battle is very, very real. Some see their struggle, while some choose not to see it. Some are functional alcoholics, while some are completely dysfunctional. Some want help desperately, while some avoid getting help at all costs.
If you have struggled with alcohol addiction, or know someone who has, you know exactly what I'm talking about when I say the battle is heartbreaking on multiple levels.
In light of this reality, let me share three quick thoughts I find myself sharing with people (and in particular church leaders) on a regular basis regarding one's relationship with alcohol. I believe these are three important things to remember:
#1. You don’t have to drink. It is not strange to abstain from alcohol. In fact, it is the wise course to take for many people, for many different reasons. It might be for you too. Listen, there is no shame in choosing not to drink. No shame at all.
#2. Know yourself and be honest about your ability to practice self-control and moderation if you do drink. This takes humility and teachability. Many of us have addictive tendencies we are either unaware of or unwilling to admit. Talk with a friend or a counselor or a pastor about this. Remember: Not one of us is as strong or wise as we think we are. Be careful. As Proverbs 20:1 puts it, “Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise.”
#3. If you do drink, be respectful of those who choose not to drink. Some people choose not to drink out of conviction. Others choose not to drink because of a past battle with alcohol addiction. If you are a pastor or church leader, do all you can to make sure your church is a safe and welcoming place for non-drinkers and those who struggle with alcohol. In talking with many men and women over the years who have battled with drinking, I’ve learned that not every church is safe in this regard.
The bottom line is this: Love puts the needs of others before our own. This is true in every area of life, including this area of alcohol.
The battle with addiction is very, very real for more people than we realize. It is a day to day, even hour to hour struggle for many. Let us be mindful and mature in how we seek to care for and serve those who find themselves in this place. It isn't something to joke about or make fun of. It is a war. Let us not cause others to stumble, but instead be those who provide safety, care, and hope for men and women whose struggle with alcohol is devastatingly real.