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Christianity Oasis Ministry has provided you with this Christians Drinking study on Christians Drinking verses. This Christians Drinking Bible study on Christians Drinking quotes looks at the Christians Drinking message and asks if Christians Drinking is a sin, what are the Christians Drinking laws, what is the Christians Drinking truth, why is the Christians Drinking message important, what is the Christians Drinking message and how does the Christians Drinking message affect you. This Christians Drinking study will open your eyes, mind and heart about Christians Drinking according to the Bible. Many are curious about Christians Drinking laws in the Bible and want to know if Christians Drinking is a sin. Some have been told that Christians Drinking is a sin according to the Bible. Some have been told that drinking in the Bible did not get you drunk so it is not the same as Christians Drinking today. Come and Let us seek and find the truth within the Bible of Christians Drinking with Christians Drinking message in this Christians Drinking study, shall we?


 

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WHAT IS IN THIS POT?


By Namani J. Nharrel

 

 

 

A Missionary examines the Controversy about Christianity

and Alcoholic Drinks from a Biblical Perspective and its effect on Evangelism.

 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Acknowledgment
Dedication

Introduction

 

Chapter 1:    What is in this Pot?

-                     Production

-                     Both Contain Alcohol

-                     Consumption

-                     Abuse and Addiction

 

Chapter 2:    More than a Food Drink

-                     Religious Functions

-                     Commercial Purposes

-                     Ceremonies and Festivals

-                     Community Development

-                     The Social Connection

-                     Pain Reliever

 

Chapter 3:    The Great Divide

-                     Is it not Food?

-                     Is it not Sinful?

-                     The Debate

-                     The Alcoholic Christians

-                     The Non-Alcoholic Christians

 

Chapter 4:    Strong Drinks and Evangelism

-                     The Liberal and Indulgence

-                     The Moderate and Conscience

-                     The Legalist and Prohibition

-                     Now What?

 

Chapter 5:    Let the Bible Speak

-                     Let's Do Some Bible Survey

-                     Availability

-                     Example of Those Who Used It

-                     Exceptions

-                     Effects of Drinking

-                     Warnings

-                     What Have We Seen?

-                     What Do We Say Now?

 

Chapter 6:    What About Drunkenness

-                     What is It?

-                     In the Bible

-                     So Where Are We

-                     Effects of Drunkenness

-                     Which Way

                  

Chapter 7:    Christianity and Strong Drinks

-                     And Who is a Christian

-                     The Christian Message

-                     Expectations From the Christians

-                     Strong Drink and the Kingdom Lifestyle

-                     Need to Get Charged?

-                     Eating to Live or Living to Eat

-                     It is Gluttony?

-                     To Those Already Hooked
 

References
About the Author

 

 

Acknowledgement
 

          I sincerely want to thank all those who have contributed in one way or the other in writing and the production of this book.  I am particularly grateful for the encouragement and the support of Laku my wife. She prays while I write and she understands while I steal into her time and that of the children to write. I also appreciate the cooperation of our four lovely children, Yammune, Seramkong, Kamduhl and Yamkwada. They all know when daddy is busy writing. Thanks to my friends who have always asked, “What book are you writing next?” I shall ever remain thankful to all our partners and supporters of our mission work. Finally I thank my publishers for for making this work available to the general public.

 

I remain yours in Him,

Namani J Nharrel.

 

 

Dedication
 

          I dedicate this work to all the servants of God working in places where strong drink is an issue. I am praying that God will help them learn how to strike a balance so that the issue does not become an obstacle on the way of the  true seekers after God.   

  

 

Introduction
         

A story (almost a joke) has it that one of the foremost ‘sins’ the first European Missionaries preached against when they entered a Nigerian tribe in the early 20th century was the drinking of a locally brewed alcoholic drink called men (MENN). Their not drinking men among other things identified those who became Christians.

          It happened that some of the native unbelievers went to see what those white men and their kinsmen were doing under a tree on a Sunday. They met the Christians praying. At the end of the prayers all the believers in unison said the Amen (E-MENN). It was intriguing to the unbelievers. Nevertheless they dispatched quickly and joyfully bewildered, to spread the news. For all they understood was that the Christians must have changed their minds about drinking men. After all they heard the Christians commanding themselves to E-menn (drink men) at the end of their prayers.

          I grew up to see my people drink men. The Christians didn’t, the non-Christians did. When a person became a Christian people outside the church asked, “Has he stopped drinking”? Or when a person began to get unserious with the Lord, the question usually asked is, “Has he started drinking?” Incidentally drinking secretly or openly was the first visible sign people began to notice in a backslider.

          The fact that those early missionaries and believers associated drinking with evil is vividly illustrated in the following anthem we were taught in the Sunday school.

 

Mam mo wob Yamba

De ma ilu ma seb Mai gu

A Munung ashin Bailbul

 

Mam mo wob Shuro

De ma ilu ma seb mai gu

A munung ashin dig men

 

Translated:          Those of you who worship God

Stand up and see your King

He is carrying the Bible.

 

Those of you who worship Satan

Stand up and see your king

He is carrying a pot of wine.

 

          So I left home with the idea that drinking is sinful. If I saw some Christians drink I thought they could not be serious ones.

          The claim that drinking is sinful and that those who drink are either sinners or sinning has been preached from many evangelical pulpits. In personal witnessing that has been the main trust of the message of some too. It goes something like this: “Drinking is sinful, stop it and follow Christ.”  But the question that those being preached to have always asked is, “Where is it in the Bible, that says, drinking is a sin?” One went further to refer me to the fact that Jesus himself turned water into ‘men’ and that Paul asked Timothy to drink ‘men’ for the sake of his stomach. At first that sounded blasphemous. The places he referred to have no men’ but wine in my language New Testament Bible. I admit that wine is a foreign word and I didn’t care to know what it meant then. Now that I know, it’s an English word whose equivalent in my language is men, I suspect that the missionaries who translated the New Testament into my language had their fears. Using men for wine would have undermined their gospel or so they must have thought since our people drank a lot of men.

          The first tribe I worked among as a missionary myself was also very wonderful at drinking. Again the major question my colleagues and I had to grapple with was. If taking alcoholic drink was sinful or not.

          The unbelievers said, “We have been looking and waiting for a good alternative to our idolatrous way of life. But will you allow us to continue in our drinking habit if we become Christians”? An incident brings this question clearer.

          My family was to move and start a station in one section of the tribe. Family heads from several settlements in that region learnt about our move. They met and agreed to embrace Christianity with their families. They even decided where the worship centre would be sited. But by the time we actually moved in to start work the people seem to have changed their mind. They learnt that the missionaries as individuals do not drink wine; they therefore concluded that they (the missionaries) are not likely to condone drinking in the church. This was confirmed much later, when one of the natives stopped one of the missionaries and told him, “Look if only you allow people who drink, in your church, that building you have cannot contain all those who are willing to join you on Sundays.” Thus what would have been a mass movement of a section of a tribe into Christianity was stalled because of drinking palaver.

          Though I was beginning to differentiate between Biblical absolutes and the non-absolutes, yet I was not convinced that we needed to throw the door of the church open just to accommodate a crowd who were not willing to forsake what I considered an unwholesome habit that may not help the spiritual growth of the church. Nevertheless there was a struggle raging within me. Secretly I believed that drinking was not a Biblical absolute in most instances. Therefore it shouldn’t be the focus or point of emphasis of the gospel message. On the other hand the reality of experience (doctrine is not built on experience) would not make me say boldly and openly that drinking is not sinful.

          So when new believers come to ask if drinking is sinful or not or when they come to report that that other new believer is still drinking the missionary or preacher who wants to be balanced is thrown into a fix. He is torn between being faithful to the Bible despite popular opinion and giving a blank license for irresponsible indulgence. He is not sure whether to trust the Holy Spirit to do his work of inner sanctification or fear watering down the gospel if he should tell people that taking strong drinks is not sinful. It is a dilemma.

          As I write “What is in this Pot?” I am faced by this dilemma. What will the majority of the evangelical preachers say about it? I also fear a misreading by a people who would have been looking for an excuse to abuse a gift of God to man. In any case I have sworn allegiance to God and His word.

          Preachers of the word of God must face this dilemma courageously, particularly those working among peoples who drinking are literally their lifestyle.

          The issue of drinking or not drinking alcoholic drink has been an obstacle to the spread of the gospel in Nigeria since the time of the European missionaries to date. There have been two unhealthy extreme views. At one end most evangelical preachers list taking strong drinks top in the company of adultery, stealing, idolatry, murder and the likes whereas the Bible is not categorical about its sinful nature as it does the others. Then there are those who see nothing wrong in taking strong drinks. They indulge in it irresponsibly. When they are full they give glory to demons in one way or the other. The non-Christian non-drinkers like the Muslims associates’ strong drinks with Christianity. As such some would have nothing to do with a religion that seems to permit its adherents to take intoxicants. Especially, when they see so-called Christians misbehaving under the influence of strong drinks.

          The purpose of this book is to explain as balanced as possible the scriptural position on strong drink in the context of becoming a Christian and the demands of its lifestyle thereafter. It is hoped that this book will help both drinkers and non-drinkers of strong drinks put it in proper perspective as it regards to its relationship with Christianity. I pray that the Evangelical preacher, in particular will learn to prioritize the content of his gospel message without necessarily making the gospel look cheap or watering it down after reading this book. Overall I desire that this book will help people make intelligent choices or counsel others whether to drink or not. So that no one feels guilty for drinking or claim spiritual superiority for not drinking consequent of whichever choice one makes. And I pray that this choice is going to be made in the light of clear biblical position and in the context of the totality of Biblical Christianity and the Kingdom lifestyle, so that we do not despise nor pass judgment on one another other.


 

CHAPTER ONE

 WHAT IS IN THIS POT?
 

  

What am I?

I am a liquid

Contained in a pot

Sought by Millions

I cheer and gladden the hearts of many

Woes, sorrow and misery I give to more

I flow freely

Yet bind thousands strongly

Loved and hated

An Enigma you may say

Food or poison

Whatever you think

To God and conscience you can appeal

To reveal what I am.

 

          You are a mix of sadness and joy. A controversial food drink made from grains or fruits. You have as many names as the tribes that make you in Nigeria and the world over. You are presented in pots of various shapes to your lovers in Northern Nigeria, the Middle Belt and other places that love you. In Hausa you are called Burkutu or giya: Your sister from the Palm tree in the South is called ‘tombo’ (palm wine). Then your cousins from abroad either from cereals or fruits comes bottled or canned. They are called beer and wine respectively.

          But let us lump you together and call you strong drink. If you don’t mind we shall from time to time called you alcoholic drink or even use wine interchangeably. However to know you better we must need to examine you closer, through your production, content, consumption and misuse.

 

Production

1.                Beer – Is “an alcoholic drink made form grains.” “It is an alcoholic drink made from malt and flavoured with hops.” The hops are plants, which give the bottled beer its bitter taste. The grains from which the popular Burkutu and other forms of beer are made from include: Guinea Corn (Sorghum), Millets, Maize (Corn) ‘acca’ and sometimes rice.

The production of the locally brewed Burkutu goes through a process that last seven days from the soaking of the grain to drinking. The process involves mainly the breaking of the carbohydrate content of the grain into sugar, which is in turn acted upon by enzymes to produce the alcohol and other content of the drink.

The grain is soaked and softens in water. Then it is removed and provided with other conditions of germination, namely warmth and dark cover. By the third or fourth day majority of the grains have sprouted. The sprouted grain is grounded either after drying or wet and later made into paste. The paste is put in large pot to boil, cool and allowed to ferment overnight. The boiling and fermentation processes vary from place to place and with the nature and strength of the beer desired. To increase its intoxicating ability parts of some special plants are added.

On the seventh day the beer is ready for drinking. Depending on the brewed quantity it can last for two to three more days. With increasing days the drinks become more soar and stronger. The expert at it loves it that way.

 

2.                Wine – This is the alcoholic drink used in the Bible lands and many parts of the world today. “And wine mentioned in the Bible is fermented grape juice with an alcohol content. No non-fermented juice was called wine”3.

Wine is produced from the vine plant whose long stems grows along the ground or fastens themselves to other erect objects by means of long tendrils. The fruits of the vine are put in large containers called wine presses at an elevation. The presses are connected to lower containers by channels. The juice is expressed by squeezing the fruits in the larger containers, which flow into the smaller lower containers. This is later collected and put into pots or other containers like wine skin in the Bible times.

The main action in the process here is fermentation. It is set into motion as soon as the skin of the grape fruits is broken. “Fermentation requires only sugar, some micro-organism and time. The sugar is in the grape, the yeast that produces fermentation clings to the skin of the grape and the time begins the minute the skin is broken and the two are brought together. It can happen still with the grape on the vine. In refrigerated liquids, the process begins within hours and can produce noticeable alcoholic content in a very short time”4.

After the juice has been expressed, collected and put into jars it is now strained, sieved and ready for consumption.

 

Both are Alcoholic

Wine from grapes and other fruits and beer from grains and roots both contain alcohol at varying levels of concentration. Alcohol is defined as “the colourless liquid present in wine, beer and other liquor that can make one drunk” 5.

The alcohol content of strong drinks varies with several factors. These include the level of sugar content in the source material, the degree to which the sugar is acted upon by microbial activities; the atmospheric condition conducive for the microbial activities and the addition of additives, which may have intoxicating abilities in themselves.

The level of alcohol or its concentration determines how strong a drink becomes. This in turn determines the intoxicating potential of the drink. “In Biblical times wine had a practical alcoholic content of 10-11%”. There are several bottled drinks in the Nigerian drink market that certainly have higher alcoholic content. In some places the pure distilled alcohol meant for other purposes are bottled and consumed undiluted.

From all intent and purpose the alcoholic content of strong drinks are if not all, to a very large extent the motivation for the consumption of wine and beer.

 

Consumption

          In most communities that take strong drinks, they are seen as mere food. One has seen whole communities whose life can be described as virtually depending on wine as ‘food’. One has heard people say that drinking is indeed their life. Meaning they cannot do without drinking. In communities where people live like this the burkutu is brewed on daily basis, from one compound to the other. Instances have been observed where a whole family goes out drinking from morning till night (not in one place). Sometimes the very young ones are left behind to fend for themselves, if they can.

          Strong drink is hardly served as a family meal even in places where the people claim drinking is their way of life. Even in large families and compounds strong drinks are hardly made for the immediate members’ consumption alone. So when people claim that beer or wine is food, it appears that it is more of ‘communal’ food that they mean. When it is sold and bought outside it is often ‘eaten’ in-group or individually where people are. It is taken on the spot. Hence the existence of beer parlours, drinking joints, bars and restaurants. Burkutu markets are scattered in remote settlements and villages. People go to all these places to drink and enjoy themselves. When bought and brought home it is often to a special guest, an invalid or an old elderly member of the family. Alcoholic drinks are also served as the main or one of the main food items in social functions such as wedding and festivals.

          If some people take strong drinks as food, many more take it for other reasons. It appears the alcohol content and its intoxicating effect are some these reasons.

          This is confirmed in the fact that those who drink heavily will feel insulted when offered say ‘kunu’ (a form of gruel more like the alcoholic burkutu and may even be denser than the latter in quenching hunger and thirst) and other forms of liquid food when they have a choice to drink burkutu. Or when fanta or coca-cola is offered to one who drinks bottled beer. Here the aim becomes not to fill the stomach with strong drink as food but to get something different from it. Such thing could be the desire to get drunk, proving ones prowess at drinking or generosity with drinks. Some desire to get drunk in order to get even with adversaries they have been too timid to approach in sober moments. Sometimes it is just to feel belong to the status quo.

On this last point, a male adult may not be considered a man in certain cycles if he is not drinking. People have wondered aloud to the hearing of this writer that, “How on earth can a grown up man not drink?”

 

Abuse and Addiction

          “If alcoholic drink is taken for the sake of the stomach, then it ought to be just food for the stomach and nothing more. But a man boasted that he could drink from 6 ‘O’clock in the morning to 2 ‘o’clock the next morning. Another man said he could drink a carton of beer at a sitting. So in most instances this ‘food’ is taken without restraint or moderation. It becomes an abuse. Often this abuse leads to a tragic enslavement or addiction. The author the book, Where there is no Doctor captures the effect of this addiction:

“If alcohol has brought much joy to man it has also brought much suffering especially to women and children of men who drink. A little alcohol now and then may do no harm. But too often a little leads to a lot. In much of the world, heavy or excessive drinking is one of the underlying causes of major health problems even for those who do not drink. Not only can drunkenness harm the health of those who drink (through diseases such as cirrhosis of the liver…), but it also hurt the family and communities in many ways. Through loss of judgment when drunk and have self respect when sober-it leads to much unhappiness, waste and violence often affecting those who are loved most.

“How many fathers have spent their last money on drinks when their children were hungry? How many sicknesses result because a man spends the little bit of extra money he earns on drinks rather than on improving his family’s living conditions?

How many persons hating themselves because they have hurt those they love? Take another drink and forget?”6         

More questions.  How many divorce cases there are due to uncontrolled drinking? How many children have had no parental love, attention and training because one or both parents were drunkards? How many lives and property have been lost in vehicle accidents driven by drunk drivers? How many street fights, home fights, theft, rape, murder and a host of other crimes have been committed under the influence of strong drinks? Certainly the abuse of alcoholic drink has led to untold hardship, pains, loss and death.

          When strong drinks are taken solely for the alcohol sake it naturally leads to its abuse. The unwarranted use or alcohol by those who have given themselves to it  ‘habitually’ or compulsively is addiction. It becomes a lifestyle dependent on alcohol. Once people are hooked on alcohol it becomes difficult to stop it. If they try to stop it, they become miserable, sick or violent.

I have seen people being ‘dragged’ on foot over ten kilometers by the irresistible urge to drink. I have seen and heard of people who once they receive their salary will not return home until they have spent their last Naira on drinks. I have lived with a neighbour who abandoned his family for most part of the week rotating from one drinking spot to the other in the neighbourhood.

On one occasion we sat dawn to analyze how much an average drinker spent on drinks per week. The amount was staggering relative to the income of most people in that subsistence farming community. When I looked at the man as being an above average drinker I marveled. His cloths barely covering his body, his family feeding poorly, his bed a flat form of mud, his room has no fixed door and yet he was a giant at drinking non-free drinks. I wondered. In sober moments he confided his desperation. He wants to stop drinking if only he could get the ‘medicine to stop drinking’ he told me he would stop.

          So when chronic alcoholics try to get out of it, often they cannot help themselves, rather they go deeper, thereby creating more problems for themselves, their families and the whole community. In some of these communities the people don’t know what to do with their addicts especially in the youth category. Beside stealing goats, live fowls, money, breaking into grain stores such youths have constituted themselves into social menace-fighting, raping breaking all known societal laws and orders and making nonsense of all traditional norms and values.

          Abuse and addiction to alcoholic drink is sadly a vicious enslaving habit. The prisoner himself is the prison warden. Only he has the key of unlocking the prison gate to be freed from its captivity. Though he moans, “I am chained strongly” yet when he wakes up he goes for more.

          There were such addicts in the Bible times too. They had woes, sorrows, strife, complaints, and needless brushes, bloodshot eyes. Those who linger over wine, who go to sample bowls of mixed wine’. They “gazed at when it was red, when it sparkled in the cup, when it goes down smoothly in the end it bites like a snake and poisons like a viper” when drunk their ‘eyes saw strange sights’ and their minds, “ imagined confusing things.” In such conditions they become like one sleeping on the high seas, lying on top of the rigging. “They hit me. You will say, but I am not hurt. They beat me but I do not feel it. When will I wake up so I can find another drink?” (See Proverbs 23:29 – 35).

          A bad habit is like a soft chair, easy to get into, but hard to get out of it. People in this habit and or those around them only need to know that “A changed life is the result of a changed heart”. The only surgeon that does this heart transplant perfectly and permanently is the Lord Jesus Christ.


 

 

CHAPTER TWO

MORE THAN A FOOD DRINK

 

          There are few foods that are so controversial and yet find acceptance and broad use than alcoholic drinks. It has religious, social and economic significance. Its consumption and use goes beyond being mere food.

 

          The strong ties people have to strong drinks can better be appreciated if we look further into the various ways it is used. Understanding these uses can help us see those who use it with eyes of love and empathy. Those who do not drink may disagree with the habit of drinking itself. But that is a different thing. There is no doubt, strong drink meets deep felt needs of its users.

 

          Those who feel that there are better ways of meeting these needs must first know why alcohol is so important to its drinkers. Then they can objectively and lovingly proffer such alternatives. The alternatives must be good and convincing.
 

 

Shared by Both Man and the Divine
 

          In African Traditional Religion (ATR), there is hardly any religious function in which strong drink is not served. People pour libation to ancestors and spirits or demons in the belief that the latter are appeased or pleased. The drinks are offered in appreciation for perceived goods done by the ancestors and the spirits. Such good things include the arrival of rain, a bountiful harvest of crops, the gift of children, a family member who died at a very ripe age, the removal of devilish sickness (epidemic) and the like. Drinks are also used to appease the ancestors or the gods when they visit the living with calamity; result of the latter’s disobedience.

 

          Men on their own part drink in their communion with the spirit world. They drink as a matter of fulfilling religious obligations. In cases where the drink is offered in divining a cause of a mishap that has befallen the community all are expected to participate. Those who refuse are suspected as culprit. For drinking proves one guilty or innocent of any complication in the case being divined.

 

          In some cultures the dead are counted as members of the family. They must be fed regularly. An incident illustrates this:

 

          Two men who apparently have heard the gospel of salvation preached wanted to declare their faith formerly. They trekked some ten kilometers to invite me to their village so that together with their families they can declare for Christianity.

 

          On the appointed day, I rode together with a dear brother on bicycles to the village. On reaching the village we were told that the two men were still on their farms. We got a young boy who led us to the farms. Fortunately for us the farms bordered each other.

 

          The two men received us happily. We retold them the message of salvation, explaining to them how people get related to God through the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

          Just at the point the two men were bowing their heads to invite Christ into their lives an old woman suddenly appeared from nowhere.
 

          “What?” she shouted. “You want to become Christians? Who will be giving food to your fathers?

 

          The two men looked at the woman embarrassed. They excused us, “till another time”.

 

          On our way back, the brother that accompanied me hold me that the fathers of the men died long times ago. The old woman who interrupted the declaration of those men for Christ happened to be the mother of one of them. Even if the fathers were alive, mothers are disobeyed at a great risk of being cursed in that culture.

 

          The belief in life after death is behind the practice of offering food and drinks to dead people. Even the recent dead are sent to their final place of rest with wine and other foods. Thereafter they are remembered yearly depending on how rich the family the deceased left is.

 

          Sadaka in which prayer for the repose of the soul of the decease is made is done with abundant supply of wine. This is mandatory for the relations of the dead in a particular tribe. Failure to meet this obligation attracts a penalty of fine in addition to still having to do the Sadaka.

 

          This pagan practice is modified and christened in several Christian denominations today.

 

          Alcohol drinks appear to be the only food men and the spirits share in common.

 

 

An Item of Commerce
 

          Two men were passing through a town one of them drew the attention of the other to a new house by the roadside.

 

          “Look at the house we built for this woman” he said.
 

          “You are neither a builder nor a relation of the woman, how and when did you build this house?” queried his companion.

 

          Remorsefully the first man said, “It is the money we spend drinking from her that she used to build her house.

 

          The woman referred to was in Liquor business.

 

          The alcohol Business is a flourishing one. As far back as 1972 it was reported that, approximately six million gallons of wine are produced annually. About 75% enters international trade. “And the world produces about twelve million gallons of beer annually most of which does not enter world trade”.

Since the above figures were given more breweries have come up the world over. Research has broadened the scope of raw materials in the alcohol industry. Most tropical countries for instance depended on imported malt from the temperate countries. But now tropical crops like maize, Guinea corn, millet and cassava are used to produce bottled beer.

 

          The alcohol industry certainly contributes to the  gross national income of Nigeria.
 

          Beside its contribution to the international and national economies, the local industry is a main income generator to the local brewers. In many rural communities beer is the main item of trade. The women folks are more prominent into the business. As a source of income many would not stop the alcohol business for anything.
 

          Working as a church planter in such places one has heard many a woman comment, “How will I survive economically if I stop brewing burkutu?

 

          Indeed the business meet the clothing, feeding and medical needs among other needs of these women and their families. Some women do not drink but are into the making of the drink for sale.

 

          The business seems to pay off quickly. It is hardly in need of customers. A people who believe that drinking is their way of life or culture will always demand for the drink. Those who can make it, supply it in exchange for money.

 

          Surprisingly the customers always get the money to drink in one way or the other. They literary drink up the sweat of the toils of the cropping season. The farm produce is squandered on drink. Some people go to hire their labour to rich persons or communities and return to drink with the money so earned.

 

          Looking at the rural set up it becomes easier to understand why the liquor business thrives. The level of initiative, creativity and industry of the people leaves little or no options for making money. They may be in their own worlds. But they need and do interact with the other worlds, which do involve financial commitments.

 

          However not everyone in such communities is involved in the alcohol trade.
 

          The excuse that brewing is the only means of economic survival comes only from those who are in it. Many missionaries have testified that the women converts who formerly brewed burkutu and had stopped it after their conversion survived. They lived healthier and more prosperous than their counterparts who still made alcoholic drinks. With counsel and determination they had their creativity and industriousness enhanced. They were able to find other income generating avenues. When they took the pains to reach the outside world they found markets for their local products. Items that were before then overlooked, suddenly had value and highly demanded.

 

          The alcohol business at the local level has a peculiar characteristic. Except in few cases hardly do those involve have much to show for it, by way of improved standard of living. The trade seems to keep both the supplier and the customer at low levels of financial prosperity and stagnation. The former drains the purse of the latter while the later seem to silently curse the former so that the profit made become less beneficial and worthless.

 

In Ceremonies and Festivals

          Strong drinks are served at occasions, wedding engagements and ceremonies, parties, meetings; and regular festivals, religious or cultural. The drinks serve as refreshment.

          On these occasions the celebrants provide the drinks with great concern.

          On the surface the reason for the concern might appear to be the need to satisfy the feeding needs of the guest. But on probe, one sees that often it is the reputation of the celebrant that is perceived to be at stake. In the world of show off and competition people will like to seize every opportunity to display their competence and wealth. So the main question at the back of their mind as they supply the drinks is that of rating: “What will the invitees say if they do not drink to their satisfaction? They fear disgrace and shame.

          Therefore, in away, meeting the drink needs of the participant at a social function that serves it is equated to the success of the function itself. People will continue to stay for as long as the drink flows. Some can stay overnight or for few more days depending on the occasion and the availability of the drinks.

          If it was, say a wedding ceremony, people will return praising how generous the family of the groom or bride (whichever hosted the occasion) is, with food to feed a large crowd at a time and having people say so. This help to boost the celebrant’s ego. It is a thing of real joy to the family so praised. On the other hand, people will gossip about and slander hosts who were not able to provide enough drinks for their guests.

          In some cultures strong drinks are listed as part of the dowry.

          I happened to be privilege to represent the family of a cousin marrying from such a culture. We had bought all the items demanded from us. We were ready to present them to the bride’s family, only to be told by a sympathetic lady that our items weren’t complete. We hadn’t bought the bottled wine and beer. I was hesitant about buying and presenting these particular items. Though the cousin does not drink too, what I couldn’t measure was his level of conviction about presenting strong drinks to in-laws. I had to be careful with how I felt.

          Strong drink is so important in social functions such that those concerned are levied in cash or kind to provide it. Distant relations take it upon themselves to contribute and friends and well-wishers assist to buy or make. Its importance is also seen in the nature of the occasion in which it is served. They are often lively and joyful moments. The strong drinks enhance these the more.

          After drinking the people often rise to singing and dancing; back patting and congratulating. These are delightful and desired effects.

          But alas! In many instance the opposite of these desired effects result. After drinking, people quarrel and fight. Unrestrained flirtation, fornication and adultery take place. A man told me that he normally doesn’t stay late night outside. But he is forced to attend late night wedding parties his wife attends.

          Strong drinks definitely connect People and communities too. It makes them to rejoice with one another. But sometimes these joys turn to sadness depending on the tide of the cherished liquid.


Motivator for Communal Labour

          Interdependency is a mark of homogenous communities. To develop themselves and the community at large members would have to deal with one another. Strong drink is a strong binding force to reckon with in this interdependency.

          In addition to other equally important motivations, people participate fully and actively in any communal work where strong drink is involved.

          An individual can invite a section or a whole village to his farm and the pay for their labour being ample quantity of wine. It is served before and or after the farm work depending on the quantity of the drink.

          A new family compound with two to four round houses can be built up in 2-3 days. It is possible where wine is provided and the people invited.

          Farm produce can be conveyed en mass from the farm to the house or market if wine is provided.

          Intra and inter village road networks are constructed or repaired, public building are built with wine served as food or refreshment for the work. In Urban centers, cultural and tribal groupings meet to discuss ways of developing their villages back home over strong drinks.

          Though a good motivator in making people participate in communal work, the emphasis however, is not on the drink itself. The work is the focus. But serving the drink is not taken for granted either. People here drink from others with the thought that they will someday have people come to drink from them. If they don’t go to drink from others nobody will come to drink from them.


The Social Connection

          Man, sociologist tell us is a social animal (I prefer a social being). He does not like to stay alone but to associate with others. This association with or without a necessary common agenda or focus is often desired at his leisure time. The times that he is less busy.

          As a missionary one goes to meet his audience where they are. On one occasion I went to a drinking spot. There I met a primary school teacher who lightheartedly invited me to join him in ‘eating’. I politely declined the invitation on the ground that I do not ‘eat’ that kind of food. However, wanting to discuss further with him, I asked, “What kind of food is it that doesn’t seem to satisfy people who eat it from morning till evening? And why do most people prefer to eat it outside the home?”

          He looked at me with a smile and then said, “This is more than a matter of food. It is the heart of our social life and interactions! If it were only to be a matter of food I would just drink and go home to sleep or buy it and take it home to my family.”

          Strong drink is therefore the social magnet that attracts people of different background to interact. It is a leveler as people forget their status, class, position or possession and mix freely with one another.

          I know of some farming communities that the farmers are so religiously attached to their farms. But once it is the weekly market day they take leave of the farm to attend the market. They go with the purpose of seeing (interacting with) people where they ‘see’ the people is the drinking places.

          When they interact and relax over drinks they talk freely, loudly and loosely. They exchange the latest news, gossips and boast about all there are to boast about. They laugh off their heads silly patting one another.

          Some see avenues for recreation in drinking in the market. Others drink there to while away the time, yet others go to drink to forget their miserable life. Still some go to drink to meet old acquaintances or make new ones.

          On the other hand are those who go to public drinking places for some diabolic intentions. Such go to settle scores with their real or imagined enemies. They drink and start quarreling or fighting with other people. Some, pretending to be friendly and generous with drinks have gone to the wicked extend of poisoning others. They secretly put poison in the drinks and then offer it to their friends.

          I guess this is the reason why well meaning people would have to taste first any drink they offer to visitors or strangers. This is to assure that there is nothing harmful in the drink being offered. Some of those who perpetuate wicked acts on others do so under the pretext of being drunk. People have been verbally or physically assaulted and some have even been killed under this pretext.

 

To Escape from Reality

          Some people use drink as a pain reliever. Quite a number of people live under emotional stress. In fact we should rather say that some drink as an escape route from reality.

          Many people I have observed or interviewed were not drinking until they reached a crises point in their life.

          These crises inflicted wounds and left pains in their hearts. To ease the pains they started drinking.

          A quiet and gentle man has a wife that has a good dose of nagging. He is not given to too much talking. To avoid facing his sharp-mouthed wife he resorted to drinking till late nights. He closes from work and goes straight from office to the beer parlour. There he drinks and idle away the time till, the bar attendant signals its time to close.

          He heads for home that late hoping the tigress has gone to sleep. Early the next morning he slips up to work. The cycle continues.

          Another man says he drinks because it helps him to forget all the problems of life. Indeed without drinking the man is depression personified. But after drinking he is the most cheerful and lighthearted person one would love to keep company with. Some people have low image of themselves. They seem to find worth and self-esteem after they have drank. Thereafter they talk big, arrogantly boast about and challenge others.

          The pain of rejection and ridicule is another reason why people drink. I have heard people ask if a man is a man because he does not go out drinking with other men. There are instances that wrong assumptions have been made against such a men. “His wife has him in her pocket” or “She has a foot on his head” or “He is a woman wrapper” or any or those idiomatic expressions that says a man is influenced and controlled by his wife.

          Only few men have the heart to take this insult. So to be seen as  ‘real’ men they go to drink.

          Whether drinking actually solve the problems of those who drink for that reason remains to be answered. Based on the following observations often than not the problems remain unsolved.

 

1.                 If any, the solution provided by drinking is temporary. For example the man who wants to escape depression by drinking is back to it after the hangover of the previous drink.

2.                 In escaping from one problem, more problems of greater magnitude are created. The man who is fed up with his wife’s nagging becomes an irresponsible absentee father and husband. The function of both of these God-given positions are abdicated to the wife or grown up children.

3.                 Many of such people live double life. They are irresponsible in the home but pretend to be something else outside. Though their irresponsibility soon becomes obvious to outsiders yet not many people will be willing to correct such people.

4.                 Their whole approach to solving life’s problem rather looks cowardly and often leads to tragic ends.

 

          Oh how I pray that those who think that drinking solves life problems will see its deceitful nature. Only the Lord Jesus Christ in the believer’s heart provides a lasting solution to life’s problem. Only he can meet any need purported to be met by strong drinks.


 

CHAPTER THREE

THE GREAT DIVIDE
 

          I was settling dawn among a new tribe my family and I were to begin a pioneer mission work. To acquaint myself with the people I visited them in their homes. Once when I was passing in front of a house I saw two young ladies sitting by a fire, on which sat a very large earthen pot.

          Seeing that the ladies were well dressed compared to the other ladies of their age in the village, I became curious if they could be the ones brewing what I suspected to be the local wine. So I branched off to see and talk with them.

          After we had exchanged greetings I asked what they were doing, just to confirm and satisfy my curiosity. From their looks I knew that they know that I know what they were doing. Nevertheless they answered.

“Do you drink it?” I asked them.

“Yes we do”

“And do you?” They chorused, both looking at me with some light and healthy suspicion.

          “I don’t drink it,” I answered lightheartedly. Then I quickly turned on them the next question I knew they were going to ask me,, “But why do you drink it?”

          Smart ladies. They threw the question back at me “Why don’t you drink it?”

          I evaded the question because I knew they were driving me to a tight corner, just as I was trying to pull their legs.  For some time both of us insisted to know each other’s reason for drinking or not drinking. Knowing they were not going to bulge until I answered them I requested that we both agree on another time that we could discuss and answer ourselves, properly. They agreed.

          The day of the “great debate” came. The two ladies came and we sat in front of my house.

 “Now you start”, I began, “Tell me why you drink this strong drink that you were brewing”. The more amiable of the two looked at me and smiled. Then she asked, “Is it not food? Is it not made from dawa” (guinea corn the popular staple food in the north and most parts of the middle belt of Nigeria)?

          I expected her to continue after what I thought were her preambles. I waited. But after some moments she looked at me and said, “I have finished”.

 

Is it Not Food?

          In the above encounter I couldn’t have answered either of the questions in the negative. That people drink it and get satisfaction (my personal feelings notwithstanding) from it must be food. That the wine is made from guinea corn (which I myself eat in several other forms) is indisputable. Thus my opponent in that ‘debate’ actually summarized her points in two implicative rhetorical questions.

 Most people will and actually have given the same answers in one form or the other when asked why they drink. Some have gone to ask the third question I am sure the lady would have asked if I had given her a definite yes or no answer. That is, “Who gave or created the “dawa”?         

          Until the coming of Christianity and Islam to Nigeria, most tribes had no problem drinking burkutu or palm wine. They saw it as food. It was one main ‘food’ that united peoples and communities together on the one hand and the people and the gods on the other hand. The people were happy drinking wine together and the gods were pleased or appeased with wine supplied by the people who revered or feared them. Then, people drank without any sense of guilt or any externally motivated inhibitions.

There were of course those who didn’t drink. But those exceptions were for functional reasons and purpose and they were temporary.

In some communities for instance, the village priest was not expected to drink before he went into the shrine for fear of making mistake while performing his duties. A very recent incident, which violated this exception to drinking, had a devastating consequence for both the chief priest and other idol worshipers.

          A community was having it annual festival of sending away all the sicknesses with the fading harmattan. The ceremonies in the shrines were normally held in the evening with the offering of food and wine to the gods. The chief Priest had earlier in the day gone to a distant market away from the community. He surely must have forgotten, for he returned drunk. It was time to go to the shrine. All the worshippers headed for their different clans’ shrines. In the mist of the ceremonies swamp of bees broke from nowhere, entered the shrines and one by one scattering all the worshippers. This writer reliable learnt that only one shrine was left untouched. That was because the priest in that shrine realized what had gone amiss and he pleaded on behalf of his own clan that the bees pass over.

          Some other exceptions, to drinking are women and non-initiates who were not expected to drink wine made for some religious purposes. Also, there were individuals who abstained from drinking for fear of getting intoxicated even with a little drink and getting into trouble, sickness or breaking the society’s laws and orders.

          So outside these and other exceptions nobody seems to feel anything wrong in drinking wine. 

          Today strong drinks serve the same purposes or are rather regarded in most instances as it was in pre-Christian and Islamic Nigeria-namely as food by those who drink it.

          It is with this background (that wine has ever served as food) that the drinkers don’t seem to understand when non-drinkers say drinking is bad. What they consider as food, “How could others feel bad about it and would even want to make them feel guilty”. The drinkers argue.

          If wine has all the while served as food how did people began to see it differently?

 

It is Not Sinful?

          Apart from few considerations, most of the arguments against taking strong drink today has religious connotation. So we could be right to say that people began to feel differently about drinking in Nigeria because of religion-namely the two relatively younger religions in the country.

          Now religion is man’s effort and way of reaching out to relate with a deity-a supernatural being he reveres and fears. Man gets to know how to relate better with his deity either by direct revelation from the deity or by instructions from the intermediary between the deity and man. Generally these revelations or instructions come in forms of “dos” and “don’ts” which governs the relationship. Religion, many have argued is a private affair. Man, however, would rather prepare practicing it in a group. No wonder that in the course of practicing his religious dos and don’t the more religiously minded would love to see every member of the community doing it well. Though it ought to be the prerogative of the deity to see man observes his dos and don’t well. But too often other men are concerned for the same reason that the deity is concerned.

          However sometime man goes a step further to police his fellow man for other selfish or irrelevant motivations.

          In the African Traditional Religion (ATR) still in practice in many parts of Nigeria today, taking strong drink is surely not one of the dos and don’ts. The adherents have no problem taking wine. As in many cultures and age’s wine or its raw material (grain or fruit) are considered divine blessings to mankind. They are taken and offered in appreciation to the deities credited with these blessings. Fertility gods existed in some Bible cultures. They still do today and are worshipped with the offering of the fruit of the harvest.

          With the advent of Christianity in Nigeria the story as regards to strong drinks began to change. The early European Missionaries of the 19th and 20th centuries came with their opinions as different as the beliefs of the missions or denominations they represented. They were divided on the things that were not Biblical absolutes. One of such was drinking. The effect of the different teaching on alcoholic drink is evident in the beliefs and practices of the members of the National daughter denominations and churches today. Broadly speaking the church in Nigeria is pitched into two camps of the drinkers and the non-drinkers or what I want to call the alcoholic and the non-alcoholic Christians

 

The ‘Alcoholic’ Christians

          Christians in this camp see nothing wrong in taking strong drinks. They see so not by way of choosing to defend the taking of strong drinks after becoming Christians, but rather in defense of a brought forward lifestyle they don’t wish to forsake. Coming from the A.T.R. background and its attitude towards wine many people find it difficult to agree with those who say drinking is sinful or those who belief that the habit should be stopped before or after professing the Christian faith.

          However there are instances where the new believers wanting to be true to their new found faith have had to stop drinking after a lot of struggle. It is a struggle, because while they were not convinced from the inside of themselves that drinking is wrong, but because the person who led them to the new faith has an eye on them. Some people in the course of this struggle go underground not wanting to be caught in the ‘sin’ of drinking thereby displeasing their mentors, while at the same time not willing to stop drinking either. So they resort to drinking at secret spots or far places where they are not known. Some believers I helped lead to Christ have told me that it took them one to two years before they stopped drinking after their conversions. And that anytime I spoke about drinking (while they were still drinking secretly), they felt I had seen or someone informed me on them. I have heard Christians doubt the genuineness of a believer’s conversion because he didn’t stop drinking after it.

          But the believers who drink are not letting themselves to be intimidated by the non-drinking believers. Some strong proponents have argued their case backing it up with scriptures. Very often they refer those who frown at their drinking habits to John 2:1-11. That is, where Jesus turned water into wine at the wedding feast in Cana in Galilee. “If Jesus himself did that, why then say drinking wine is wrong?” they ask. Then they go on to quote 1 Timothy 5:23 where Paul asked Timothy to “Stop drinking only water and use a little wine because of your stomach and frequent illnesses”. Some advance their argument further by citing what Jesus Christ said in Matthew 15 that it is not what one eats that is sinful, but what comes from the heart that defiles a man.

          A well-known cliché of those who argue for drinking is that “Christianity is a matter of the heart and not what one does externally. By this they appeal that judgment as to what is wrong and right and or sinful or not should be left to the individual’s conscience. In the consciences of drinking Christians taking alcoholic drink is not sinful. Since the dos and don’ts of Christianity are spelt in the Bible, then “Where is it stated that drinking is a sin?” they rest their case.

          One must agree that they have a very strong defense. As far as those quoted scriptures are concerned they cannot be faulted. From those scriptures we see that drinking is obviously not a Biblical absolute. But that is not where Christianity all begins and ends. Having observed the life of believers who argue and stand for drinking alcoholic drinks one is left with many wishes and questions.

          I wish such believers were truly sympathetic to being faithful to the purity of the scripture. I wish they were truly inclined to obeying all scriptural injunctions. If not all, at least those that point believers to a healthy relationship with Christ and victorious Christian life. I wish that the argument for drinking were done in the context of our call and purpose of living the Christian life here on earth. But alas, most of the people I have heard or seen argue for drinking do so from the point of self justification, defense of a habit they have become used to and ignorance of what the Christian life envelops. On further probe one finds that most of these people know little or nothing about the life giving and nurturing doctrines of the Bible. In fact most are not Bible readers and do not desire to be.

          Lets grant that there are some who read the Bible and understand its demands. They are yet questions that beg for answers. How are they living the other aspects of their Christian lives? How has drinking improved their growth and maturity in Christ? How is the Lord Jesus Christ glorified in that life style of drinking?

Talking about eating meal the apostle Paul said it should be with giving thanks to God. In another place he admonished,  “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:30-31). To the best of my knowledge I am yet to see anyone who begins drinking by giving thanks to God in Christ name.

 

The ‘Non-Alcoholic’ Christians

          There are quite a lot of Christians in the evangelical and some Pentecostal denominations that have put their feet down to say drinking is sinful. I have listened to their arguments against drinking. They have often argued from the points of dogma, silence of the scripture, what we can call the reality of experience and wishful thinking.

          Many like myself have been brought up in denominations that strongly believe that taking alcoholic drink in any form is sinful. I remember the first time I took Maltina I had to ask if it wasn’t an alcoholic drink that I was being offered. The belief then was that all bottled drinks were alcoholic. I have also learnt of a pastor who would not even touch a bottle of Fanta or Coke? From this kind of background the tendency is to say, I believe drinking is sin, No question how” And it stands so in the mind of such people. They are not ready to shift ground no matter what.

Once the mind is made up it seems to need no facts or proof. In fact it will frown at any attempt to demand for such. Two recent incidents illustrates this point-the stubbornness of dogma.

While writing this chapter, I discussed with a dear brother the relationship between the gospel and strong drink. He agreed that the transformation of the individual’s life through faith in Christ should be emphasized more than being legalistic on habits. He stressed that people’s understanding on some of the issues that are not central to the gospel vary with named factors. But in conclusion he said, “But as for me I believe that drinking is sinful.

In another incident, a group of missionaries were discussing about a lady, one of them had encountered. That she claimed to be a Christian and from one of the hard-line Pentecostal denominations that prohibits drinking for it members, yet she was brewing burkutu. This attracted various comments that have one meaning: “She couldn’t be a true Christian.” One of the missionaries then asked what is wrong in brewing burkutu. Someone quickly retorted, “Ah, it is a sin!”  But later some agreed that,Neither brewing nor drinking burkutu is sinful, but…” Nevertheless one of these who said it wasn’t a sin felt it wasn’t needful or helpful to let people know so, in some media like a book.

The power of dogma is so strong that it tends to make us go violent in words against those who do not practice or share our beliefs. We criticize and judge those who do not agree with our positions. For instance a believer thought that his mentor, a missionary was backsliding when the later told him in confidence that drinking was not a sin.

Then there are those who argue from the silence of the Bible on the sinful nature of drinking. While the Bible is not categorical whether drinking is sinful or not, the opponents of drinking are so sure it did say so. Such people look at the issue from the viewpoints of drunkenness and its consequences, which are often negative, displeasing and harmful.

Now we must say it clearly that drunkenness is sin. Because the Bible expressly says so (Galatians. 5:21, Ephesians. 5:18).  We must also admit that the negative effects of drinking on the drinker, close relations and the society at large should be a cause for concern to every right thinking person. The havoc the misuse of strong drink has done is enough to denounce drinking. But not enough to say drinking is sin because the Bible has not said so.

By the way my approach in determining what is sinful in the Bible is by looking at what I have called Biblical absolutes. This is when the Bible says do or don’ts in any of their varied synonyms in the global context of Biblical Christianity. Outside these absolutes, the other teachings, I feel should be left to the individual to determine its rightness or wrongness in the context of the Christian life as he grows and matures in his relationship with God and the demands or expectations from that relationship.

Related to the argument from silence is the argument from the point of reality of experience. As far as the relationship between Christianity and strong drinks is concerned, certain real occurrences are observed. Based on these apparently natural tendencies many people have questioned or even concluded that drinking is a sin. The realities seen include:

1.     That forsaking drinking habit is one of the first visible signs noticed in new believers who formerly drank.

2.     That resorting to drinking is one of the first visible signs noticed in backsliding Christians who formerly didn’t drink.

3.     That drinking is one of the main, discernable factors hindering many people from becoming Christians.

4.     That drinking is one of the main, discernable factors hindering many Christians from growing into maturity in Christ

5.     That those who were formerly drinkers testify that drinking is indeed a bad and ruining habit after becoming Christians.

6.     That drinking Christians are rarely known to be serious people in the things of God.

7.     That drinking generally is associated (today) with the non-Christians and idol worshippers.

8.     That in sober moments, even unbelieving drinkers do confess and lament the wrecking drinking is doing in their lives.

9.     Those addicts to drinks who wish to stop the habits are known to be helpless.

10. That even in secular circles like the government offices strong drinks are not served in serious meetings or discussions.

In the light of these, we wish we could agree that drinking is sinful. But we don’t have the freedom to say what the Bible has not said. As unacceptable to the normal Christian message and growth some of those observations are, they could equally be counter productive when we take rigid stand to draw a conclusions.

The last argument I have heard many preachers fall back to, is to say that the wine of the Bible is not the same as Burkutu or palm wine of today. They say because it was from fruit it was not alcoholic. So they believe that it is the drinking of the strong drinks we have today that is sinful and not the wine of the Bible. These are merely wishful thinking.

It is true that wine is made from grape and other fruits, which are different from the grains we have today. But the issue at stake as we have seen in chapter one is the alcoholic content of the drink. Alcohol is a chemical substance that can be extracted from different raw materials. We have also seen that all fermented drinks are alcoholic. “No non fermented drink was called wine” in the Bible.

Now we must ask the non-alcoholic Christians. Understandably they are jealous for the purity of the Christian faith. They are zealous as to see that nothing is permitted to adulterate it. But which is central to the message of the Good newsseeing Christ transform a life or seeing a man abstain from what he perceive as a food, and that the food could be harmful and is ruining him is not withstanding. I want to think that there is lack of love from those who do not drink when they condemn those who drink. If it is the drink that is wrong no good reason is often given for it. If it is the drinker that is wrong the approach is often repulsive. Sometimes amounting to rude assault. For instance to tell, say a fifty year old man who has drank all his life, to stop drinking in order to follow Christ is assault. Or to tell the same man who is a young believer that his conversion is not genuine because he is yet to stop drinking seems to me unfair (in making this statement this writer equally confesses being guilty of such denunciations).  For after so many years in the faith many of us are still struggling with some definite sins in our lives.

I think we must commend the alcoholic Christians for their large hearts. They seem to have stronger points in this debate yet they do not denounce non-drinkers. At worst what they have done is to tease the latter for missing on the goodies of life. But the opponent seems insensitively in -tolerant and vocal in their opposition and condemnations.

This debate wouldn’t have been necessary if only we read our Bible objectively. We may excuse the unbelievers who see nothing wrong in drinking. It is indeed their life. But if some one sees that, that kind of life is not helping them and would love them change through becoming Christians, then attaching the habit will not help much.

To the opposing alcoholic and non-alcoholic Christians I think there are fundamental problems on both sides. The former who quotes scriptures to back their stand on strong drink are more of reluctant opportunists. They want to hide under the Bible to live loose lives while really not willing to live in obedience to the demands of the totality of the Christian lifestyle. On the other hand the non-drinkers seem to be more of legalists. They want to equate Christianity with abstaining from particular singular habit. Both sides are missing on a point. That is, the central message of the Christian gospel. It is neither of food and drink nor of keeping the law on foods. But it is of Truth and Grace, which comes through faith in Christ alone. This alone librates.

          The most important question we must be asking ourselves at this juncture is what does it take to please God in a holy and righteous living.

          It is however sad that the enemy manipulates both ends of the debate to his advantage. Come to think of it, that the subject of this manipulation is one of the things God created and said that they were good. CS Lewis describes well how the enemy does this:

          I feel a strong desire to tell you- and I expect you to tell-which of this two errors is the worse. This is the devil getting at us. He always sends errors into the world in pairs-pairs of opposites. And he always spends a lot of time thinking which is the worse. You see why, of course? He relies on your extra dislike of the one error to draw you gradually into the opposite one. But do not let us be fooled. We have to keep our eyes on the goal and go straight through between both errors. We have no other concern than that with either of them.”
 

 

CHAPTER FOUR 

STRONG DRINK IN EVANGELISM

 

          The Evangelicals’ position with regards to salvation is that it is by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. This is the scriptural position too.

          The Evangelical Churches, “Believes in the importance of faith in Christ, holy living, Bible study and prayer, rather than in religious ceremonies”1. All Christians are commanded, “To spread the Good News about Jesus Christ in order to win people to Christ, that they may have eternal life”2

          Spreading the Good News about the Lord Jesus Christ, that is Evangelism is defined as “The Zealous proclamation of the Good News about Jesus Christ, urging men and women to repent of their sins and put their trust in Jesus as their only Saviour and to make him the Lord of their life”3

          How do we go about Evangelism? In his excellent book, Bible Guidelines, Derek Prime answers this question:

          “We are to see ourselves as workers together with God, understanding what is his work in bringing a person to a saving faith in Jesus Christ and what is our part. As we present the Gospel to all to whom God gives us the opportunity, we are to look expectantly for such evidence of the Holy Spirit activity in their lives as the Bible leads us to expect”4

          He went on to outline the following important considerations for effective evangelism.

 

1.                 Essential truth should influence our thinking and acting when endeavouring to lead others to faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.

2.                 We must be clear as to what God alone can do and what we therefore cannot do.

3.                 We must be clear as to what God required of us by way of preparation for the work.

4.                 We must be clear as to what God requires of us by way of cooperation in this work.

5.                 We need to be clear as to the essential facts of the gospel, which must be made known before any response should be anticipated.

6.                 We need to adhere to the principles, which are always to govern our presentation of the gospel.

 

          Presenting the Gospel of Salvation entails that under the leadership of the Holy Spirit we should invite or urge people to come to a living and solid relationship with the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is after we ourselves must have learnt the truth the Gospel contains and has experienced this warm and blissful relationship.

          But the sad situation is that most of us are going about our evangelism the wrong way. In the words of John Allen:

          “Most of us learn how to share our faith in a pretty haphazard way. We pick up bits of good advice and helpful arguments from sermons and books we read. We learn by painful experience in chatting to friends and neighbours what to say and what not to say. We find out more from watching other people in action and coping their good ideas. But there isn’t much structure and system”. 5

          As evangelists, I find that our lack of structure and system is evidence in two ways. The point of emphasis – often majoring on minor issues and the universal package we dole out to all that we meet.

          In putting too much emphasis on non-essentials of the gospel we mislead the unbelievers. All that they see is that these non-essentials are all that the gospel is about. Namely equating the gospel with the stoppage of certain habits. The message goes like this: God is not happy with your ways of life. He wants you to stop sinning in order to follow Jesus Christ. On the surface this statement cannot be faulted. However it is not the beginning and the end of the gospel. Neither does it completely summarize the content of the Gospel.

          The true Gospel is concerned with the fact that lost man need to return home to reconcile with his maker. The story however starts with this merciful and gracious Father reaching out in love to lost man. His love is expressed in the person of Jesus Christ and the supreme sacrifice made for the our sin that separates us from God. In understanding the significance of the death of Christ and we establish a relationship with him we find our way to God.

          The whole gospel calls for a proper understanding and having a true knowledge of the person of the Lord Jesus Christ and all that he stands for. It is after this that we can expect a meaning full decision for or against accepting Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour.

          When Christ is in then sin is out. Even then, reality and the Scripture show that the symptoms of sinful man do not leave men automatically. Every honest believer must admit going through struggles with some sinful habits after conversation.

          We are making a case that people need to understand and be convinced as to why they should leave one way to turn to another. Anything short of making people understand the person of Jesus Christ is misleading. At best we can be seen to be only involved in what John Allen, quoting Jim Petersen said is the “Gospel of the Christian contract” He says:

          “Possibly the most common weakness in our contemporary approach to evangelism is our tendency to focus our message on the Christian contract how to transact a relationship with God rather than on the person of Jesus Christ. We become so intent on helping someone understand how to put his faith in Christ that we overlook the very real probability that he is almost devoid in his knowledge of Jesus Christ… we tend to become more interested in responses than in understanding. We try to elicit agreement, and once it is achieved we seek to extract a positive response we call this making a decision”6. This is the forced contract.

          When it comes to alcohol and the gospel presentation we again ask which is essential? Is it having a true knowledge and accepting a living Lord and Saviour or Forsaking a food habit in order to please God? What is the relationship between the gospel of salvation and strong drink? Christian preachers, by their words and actions have varying positions.

 

The Liberals and Indulgence

          Preachers in this group place no sanction on the consumption of alcohol. They seem to hold the philosophy of tolerance and mutual respect for the ideas and the feelings of their audience. They see nothing wrong in drinking. Therefore they do not condemn taking strong drinks when they preach.

          Most liberal preacher actually participates in the drinking himself or herself. When questioned why he drinks, he falls back to the arguments for drinking we saw in chapter three.

          The work of such liberal (with regards to drinking) missionaries and preachers in Nigeria has produced alcoholic Christians and church denominations that are themselves liberal on drinking. Christians in the areas or regions these denominations dominate drink as a way of life. Drinks are taken and served freely in an outside church functions. Church leaders participate actively.

          A young man backslidded and started drinking. He left his former church and started attending another. This other church doesn’t seem to mind its members drinking. Soon the young man was made the song leader in his new church.

          One Sunday while leading the songs he sang out of tune with the congregation. The Pastor noticed it and realized that apart from the stench of alcohol coming out from the man’s mouth, that the man was also not coordinated.  He skillfully took over the leading of the song. He understood where the song leader had been before the service.

          When it comes to evangelism, the liberal preachers and missionaries seem to get quick acceptance with their message. Their message doesn’t seem to demand much from their audiences. Drinking for example. Whatever message is presented is a different issue altogether.

          One only needs to observe that in reality where preachers are liberal about strong drink, nominal Christians result and a marriage of Christian and pagan ideas and practice hold sway. In such places those who are truly converted to Christianity do show little sign of growth and maturity. Christianity itself is less vibrant in its true sense, except for Sunday to Sunday gatherings in places designated for worship outside the church buildings the act of faith is less visible and particularly on the other six days.

          Believers who have left or have been converted from churchianity to real Christianity have by their own testimony and new life style shown the above observations to be true. So true that one is tempted to call those ‘Churches’ they come from as sects or Pseudo-churches. The is not because they permit their members to drink. But looking at their general beliefs and practices, they are radically deviated from those of Biblical Christianity.

          Nonetheless, it is obvious that the liberal preachers in one way or the other promote and encourage over indulgence with strong drinks. Subsequently abuses and addictions result with consequent drunkenness and other related sins prominent in the areas they work. A preacher of one of these liberal churches was himself stabbed in the stomach in a fight after drinking. A church worked on a farm and drank there after. Then the members rose to dance. They sang taunting, abusive and ridiculing songs as the pagans do.

          Certainly there are many concerns about the liberals’ attitude towards strong drinks in their evangelism and church planting drives. First, the true gospel is soaked in drinks, and comes out smeared, stenched and distorted. People accept it either ignorantly or deliberately. Deliberately because it appeals to their love for indulgence and makes no attempt to prick their conscience and touch their way of life. They consequently get lost in religion called Christianity and go to hell.

          Secondly the whole concept of Christianity, its implication and demands on the life of an individual or group of people is blurred. Outsiders who watch to see a different lifestyle from the so-called Christians are confused. Because they see no changes that authentic Christianity claims for its adherent they conclude, “If that is Christianity then it is not worth it.” For all they care to know, a Christian is a Christian. They wouldn’t know if there are Christians by practice and those by name.

          An elderly Moslem man was so vexed by the behaviours of members of a local ‘church’. He said, “If I were still an idol worshipper I will fight some of this church people. They claim to be Christians yet they drink and do all that the idol worshippers do”. This leads us to the third concern.

          The lifestyle of the Christian converts from the work of such liberal preachers does not measure up to the standard of New Testament Christianity. There is little or nothing to say that they help to build up one another spiritually. Talk less of preaching the gospel in words and actions to unbelievers.

          At the risk of sounding critical, I make bold to say that many of the liberals go out with the message of indulgence.

          We are then forced to conclude that theirs couldn’t be the same transforming gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.

          How sad is it that Jesus’ Strong words to the legalistic teachers of the law and the Pharisees are become true of such liberal preachers too.

Woe to you teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are “Mathew 23:15”

          These teachers and preachers may need to teach and preach that people should “live as free men but do not use your freedom as a cover up for evil, live as servants of God (1 Peter 2:16).

          As far as food is concerned Paul advise that “Do not by your eating destroy your brother. For the kingdom of God is not of a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness peace and Joy in the Holy Spirit. Because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God approved by men…

          “Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of good. All food is clean but it is wrong for a man to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble. It is betters not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brothers to fall” (Romans 14: 15, 17-21).

 

The Moderate and the Conscience

          In principle we can say preachers are divided more or less in two camps – for or against drinking. But in practice there are preachers who take a middle ground.

          They do not speak against or for it. However their none-speaking speaks much of where they stand. They do not restrict people drinking and when pushed to take a stand, they argue for moral restraint. They leave people to their consciences as judges over the issue.

          In evangelism the moderates do not make any strong case out of drinking. They neither condemn the habits nor encourage it.

          However, one wishes that such a stand is a principled one. That drinking or not drinking doesn’t make a difference in one’s relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. As it stands most preachers in this category view the issue more on passive ground than on a strong conviction. Hardly does one hear such preaches say, “Drinking or not drinking is not an issue in salvation or the Christian’s daily work with God, for instance.

          Because they are not firm on their stand, believers from such preachers’ work are as divided on drinking too. There are church denominations not reputed for condemning drinking but whose members drink openly. And this, not attracting any frown or form of any sanction from the leadership. Understandably people are more comfortable in these churches as far as drinking is concern.

          But some of these churches have not been spared by the hardliners. They have been described with quite a few adjectives – cold, lifeless, dull or even death churches. The standard used to get these description among others is the fact that some members are known to drink openly.

          Nevertheless it must be observed here that even when people approach a near Bible position on an issue, they get into problem when done in ignorance. The enemy of God capitalizes on their ignorance to distort the outcome.

          For instance it is true that the Bible neither restrict the consumption of any food. But because people do not know how to balance between food and duty to God the devil has craftily magnified the importance of food over duty.

          So even in churches where they seem to be Biblical on its approach to drinking -that of moderation, the devil is greatly doing havoc with drinks. Here you find the less serious Christians are the drinkers. They constitute a log in the wheel of progress of any local church. The leadership may not be drinking but the drinkers may not be agreeing with them on issue of true spirituality.

 

The Legalist and Prohibition

          The legalist in our context is against drinking completely. They view it as sin. They see those drinking as sinners or sinning.

          As a rule the legalist preachers strict adherence to the law. Whatever is a do or don’t must be observed to the letters, else, the defaulter faces a stiff penalty. The legalist hardly tampers mercy with justice so to speak.

          Here the law says, according to the legalist, drinking is a sin. It stands and no question. If you ask for explanation you only irritate and you are seen to be questioning God.

          Normally if people live by legalism they respond with rage to people who break the law or question it. In the mind of the legalist, the law is more important than people. Who break or question it. They are quick to point accusing fingers and recommend that the due penalty be served the law breaks.

          So the legalist preacher in his evangelism preaches against drinking and condemns those who drink it as candidates of hell.

          The blanket prohibition and condemnation of drinking has not helped the cause of evangelism much. It has hindered people from hearing the message of the good news. All people hear is Jesus versus drinking.

          Even if we grant that drinking is a sin, the approach in Evangelism by those in this category leaves much room for concern. If one goes out to evangelize and start by lashing out at the sinners in their natural habitat is asking for trouble. Listing the visible manifestations of sin and asking people to stop them as conditions for becoming Christian is less than the full gospel. If it is, then, we have no message to the moralist who does none of those visible sins.

          Sticking to sinful behaviours and ‘accepting’ Christ is not what is being advocated here. The issue is that, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus”. (Romans 3:23 – 24).

          The sinful nature of man cannot be adequate addressed from the viewpoint of specific sinful manifestations or symptoms. Man is by nature a sinner.

          Addressing a specific sin in a life of a man I believe is in the realm of those already in the Christian family. While correcting or rebuking or restoring a fallen brother there is need to be specific. “Recognizing when another Christian slips into a style of life that violates a clear biblical commands and prohibitions is not legalistic. The one who’s been caught by sin needs our concern and correction (Galatians 6:1 – 2) it is not legalistic to give it.”

          But dealing with unbelievers we need to watch out that legalism does not define our approach to Evangelism.

          One is not a sinner because he does some specific sinful acts. Rather he acts so because he is a sinner. It is this that needs our attention in Evangelism. Until the sinful heart of man is addressed properly we cannot expect a change. At best we can only succeed in policing people to stop a sinful habit. Normally people resist being told to stop what they have not purposed in their heart to stop.

          I am reminded of an encounter with an old man. In the company of some members of the Nigerian Christian Corpers Fellowship (NYSC) we went for a weekend outreach to an interior village. While going from house to house  some of us accosted this old man on his way to drink.

          The old man possibly out of politeness listened patiently to all that we had to say. Then of a sudden he quipped, “Count me out of anything that will stop me from drinking”. And he went his way. One of us had made the mistake of mentioning drinking as a sin and the need for the old man to stop it in order to become a Christian.

          Churches and converts that result from the work of legalistic preachers are also strong about it members and other peoples’ drinking. They not only monitor them but also mate stern disciplinary actions on those caught or confess to drinking. Some churches will not baptize a believer if he still drinks, some believers are excommunicated on that ground too. A marriage may not be solemnized in the church if (usually) the groom still drinks. The church may not name a child if one of the parents drink s and church may not perform a funeral service if the decease drank before his death.

          The arguments against drinking as pointed earlier always lack direct scriptural basis. But the legalist is vehement that drinking is sinful. Often his stand is due to his background rather than from a logical and factual point of view.

          Writing in a different context A.W. Tozer describes how people can be obstinately dogmatic in supporting an unscriptural view. He says,

          “The propensity to accept any current religion emphasis as the correct and only spiritual view runs deep in our nature, for it is simply the old love for status quo common to all peoples in every field of human thought. Those we respect hand an idea to us. We check the references, find the whole thing mentally comfortable and proceed at once to identify with orthodoxy. After that we judge people by whether or not they subscribe to it naturally we resist any suggestion that perhaps the idea may need a bit of editing to bring it into line with the scriptures and the historical faith of Christians.”

          Though the legalist is non-compromising in his stand yet he is willing to edit the scripture to make it agree with his hard line posture. For instance when it is pointed to him that some key Biblical figures, God used, drank wine; he is quick to point out that what they drank was juice or that the wine were not intoxicating. Thus he puts words or ideas the writers did not have in mind while writing the Bible.

          In disputable matters and evangelism the legalists have not really helped matters in several ways. Particularly the issue of drinking.
 

1.                 The drinking unbelievers see the good news in terms of God verses strong drink. This is evident that some people can claim to be Christian, forsakes drinking and yet remains deep in some real sinful behaviours.

2.                 The concept of sin is narrowed dawn to some few sinful habits.

3.                 Hypocrites or eye service Christians are produced. As long as they can avoid being caught in popular ‘Sins’ they wouldn’t mind engaging in ‘little’ ones. For example it becomes a news if a renowned Christians is seen drinking. But nobody care if  the same christian is known to make more than necessary profit in his business or maltreats his house helps at home, or uses foul language on a small child.

4.                 Real seekers after truth are scarred from getting near to the church people who don’t sin by drinking.

5.                 An unnecessary dichotomy has been created among Christians.

6.                 And the devil has effectively used an unbalanced attitude towards what God has created to hinder the spread and progress of the gospel.

 

          Again Paul has admonitions for those so legalistic about any food. “Therefore let us stop passing judgment an one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way. As one who is fully in the Lord I am convinced that no food is unclean in itself. But if any one regards something as unclean, then for him it is unclean… so whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the man who does not condemn himself for what he approve Romans 14:13 – 14,22.

 

Now What?

          What do we tell people about drinking in our Evangelism. Is it sinful or not sinful? Or should we just keep quiet about it?

          This book is not advocating for any of the extreme positions on the issue. It is not even for passive moderation. The concern here is that the full gospel be told people in a way that they can truly and fully understand it demands. That because they understand they can make intelligent choices to accept or reject Christ. They will accept and relate with him on the basis of his finished work of grace on the cross and obtain God’s mercy. Or they may reject him at their own peril.

          The concern here is that the gospel is not Christ plus or minus drink, but he alone as God’s love to man. That through his death and resurrection man is reconciled to God in a relationship once gone sour because of sin. We are concerned that the gospel is not about food but it is about righteousness that comes through Christ alone. So we are concerned that, we do no harm to the cause of the gospel either with our permissiveness or rigidity on disputable matters that are not central to the gospel. Doing so may make unbelievers see the gospel in terms of a loose moral or strict policeman.

          Though neither for nor against drinking we think it is not the issue in effective evangelism. We think the Holy Spirit should be trusted and be permitted to continue his work of convincing and convicting men of sin and converting them from it. He alone knows how best to do it. Our part is to faithfully declare the word clearly simply, in all its purity and impressive beauty.

          The Holy Spirit in an individual’s life can effectively restrain or dictate the way a life is run. He does it for the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ and for the spiritual growth and benefit of that life.


 

CHAPTER FIVE

LET THE BIBLE SPEAK

 

          The Bible is the best Judge on disputable matters in Christian doctrine. It spells out clearly expectations, responsibilities and duties of a Christian. It tells how to relate to the material, human and the divine worlds.

          The Bible guides and directs man how best to fulfill his purpose here on earth. So when we discuss issues that Christians are not all agreed upon we should appeal to the scripture for settlement. We should lay down our arms and dialogue with the Bible as our impartial umpire. We should come to the Bible with an open mind and objectively look at the issue from its viewpoint. We should come with all the readiness and willingness to accept, abide and walk from that point alone. We should be ready to put aside what we think the Bible is saying and take what it has said. We should be willing to do away with our personal biases, the opinion of our respected leaders and teachers for the explicit teachings of the Bible.

          What if the Bible is not explicit on a particular issue? Someone may ask. Again, the Bible is the only reliable way to answer for itself. It makes explicit what it has stated implicit is one part. The fact that it is a focused book means that all its strands tie up neatly at a point. It should therefore be taken as a whole whose parts shade more lights on one another. We cannot therefore take one unclear part in isolation and build a doctrine on it.

          For instance in our context we can not say don’t drink based on a scriptural passage that highlights the evil of drink and stop there. Neither should we say drink it doesn’t matter because we have not seen a clear biblical commands to that effect. We should rather view drinking in the context of the Christian faith and purpose – namely that we live in this word to glorify God in all that we do, eat and drink.

          Authentic Christianity leaves no room for interpreting scripture to fit a pre-made mind. We make our mind after we have heard the Bible speak finally on an issue and not before it. For the danger of making up ones mind before opening the Bible is that one is not likely to see or her well what the Bible is saying especially when it is not saying what we want to hear.

          What ever the Bible says about drinking should be taken as the final verdict. And that should close the case for the good of Evangelism and Christian living in general.

 

Let's Do Some Bible Survey

          Basically, the Bible talks of wine and other fermented drinks (Judges 13:4; Leviticus 10:9; Numbers 6:3; Deuteronomy 14:26; Judges 14:4; Isaiah 28:7; Luke 1:15. Through in this book we use strong drinks to cover all intoxicating drinks. However in the Bible, “Strong drinks refer to fermented beverages not made from the grapes but from the barley and was more akin to beer.

          The New International Version of the Bible mentions beer in several places ( Proverbs 20:1; Isaiah 28:7; Micah 2:11)

          Alcoholic drinks in Bible times were intoxicating drinks. Wine was, “usually diluted with water for general consumption 2.

          New wine is wine from the most recent harvest (Genesis 27: 28; Deuteronomy 7:13; 2 Kings 18:32) New wine was also intoxicating (Hosea 9:2; Joel 1:5) New wine also referred to freshly pressed grape juice (Isaiah 65:8 Micah 6:8) The new wine was not unfermented grape juice (for fermentation sets in quickly) but wine made from the first dripping of juice before the wine press was trodden. As such it would be particularly potent. (Act 2:15”) 3

          Newly squeezed juice though may have some alcoholic content are not described as wine (Genesis 40:11; Numbers 6:3; Isaiah 65:8).

          There were also mixed wines (Proverbs 9:2) probably mixed with spices to make it stronger and tastier. This may explain why people went to sample drinks (Proverbs 23:2).

          Availability – The grape form which wine was produced is a commercial crop. It was produced and traded by royal house” (Esther 1:1-9, Nehemiah 5:18). It was exchanged for goods (2 Chronicles 2:10-15).

          Wine was often presented in earthen pots jars John 2:10-15 7 and wineskins (Mark 2:22

          Harvest was a time of Joy (Isaiah 16:10) people sang and danced (Judges 21:3-21 Jeremiah 48:33).

          The abundance of wine was a sign of Devine blessing (Genesis 28:27; Deuteronomy 7:13; Psalm 104:3; Ecclesiastes 7:13). The Canaanites capped the harvest by worshipping their idols and indulging in sexual rites Judges 9:27. The Israelites used it in worshipping the true God in the feast of the tabernacle (Deuteronomy 28:39)

          Wine and bread represented the basic elements in the Jewish daily meal (Judge’s 19:19, Lamentation 2:12, 1 Samuel 10:3, 16:20; Ruth 2:4, I Chronicles 12:40 Nehemiah 2:1-5,8; Esther 1:7, Luke 7:33-34)

          Wine was offered to God in show of gratitude (I Samuel 1:14) and in daily worship (Leviticus 23:13, Numbers 28:14). Wine was used to administer anesthetic drugs (Mathew 27:34); to treat wounds (Luke 10:34) and to purity drinking water (1 Timothy 5:23).

          It was used as an element in the Lord’s Supper (Mathew 26:27 – 29 Mark 14:23 – 33).

          Wine was served at feasts and celebrations (I Chronicles 12:39 – 40; John 2:1 – 11; Job 1:13, 18).

          Jesus used wine to illustrate his teachings.

          It had symbolic uses (Proverbs 4:17; I Corinthians 11:23 – 36).


Examples of Those Who Used Wine

1.                 A priest of God gave it in show of hospitality to a friend of God (Genesis 14:18).

2.                 Another man offered it to a man after God’s heart (2 Samuel 16:1-2)

3.                 A father prayed and blessed his children to have abundant of it. (Genesis 27:28, 37).

4.                 A Godly leader blessed his people, praying for its abundance for them (Deuteronomy 33:28).

5.                 A prophet of God determined not to defile himself with that served from a pagan king’s table (Daniel 1:5-8)

6.                 A nomadic family abstained from it in keeping to their disciplined lifestyle and a promise made to their late father.

7.                 A righteous and blameless man drank wine got drink and indecently exposed his body (Genesis 9:21).

8.                 Another righteous man got drugged by his two desperate daughters and he had sex with them. (Genesis 19: 32 – 34).

9.                 A king wanted to humiliate his wife by asking her to display her body before his guests. after drinking (Esther 1:10).

10.             A queen used it to manipulate her husband to get what she wanted Esther 5:6; 7:2

11.             Some people drank and got up to praise their gods.

12.             Those who abused strong drinks brought curses on themselves and their nations. Psalm 104:15; Isaiah 5:11; 28:7; Ecclesiastes 10:19.

 
Exceptions

1.                 Religious Leaders were not supposed to drink on duty Leviticus 10:8,9; I Timothy 3:8; Titus 2:3

2.                 Those who were consecrated to the Lord for his service were to abstain from drinking Numbers 10:3; Luke 1:5.

3.                 A class of individuals known as the Nazarenes was under vows not to drink (Judges. 13:4,7,14).

4.                 Kings and those who took far-reaching decisions that affect the lives of others were advised not to drink. So that they do not pervert justice (Proverbs 31:4).

 

Effects of Drinking

1.                 It brought Joy Judges 9:13

2.                 It suppressed pain and banished misery in forgetfulness Proverbs 31:6

3.                 It made people loose conscious control of their movement Isaiah 28:7 Psalm 60:1.

4.                 People mocked and brawled after drinking Proverbs 20:1

5.                 It impoverished (Proverbs 21:17).

6.                 It led to woes, sorrows, strife, complaints, needless bruises, blood shoot eyes, bodily and emotional injuries to self and others (Proverbs 23:29 – 31).

7.                 It led to self deception Ecclesiastes 2:3, 11; 10:17

8.                 People who got drunk hardly got serious with God (Isaiah 22:12-13) as it dulled their senses and turned their attention towards self-indulgent and enjoyment without God consciousness.

9.                 It destroyed and brought backwardness to a whole tribe Isaiah 28:1

10.             Some of these who got drunk got into pervasive sexual practices, which persisted in Israel despite prophetic condemnations. Amos 6:4 –7; Jeremiah 16:5 – 11.

11.             It makes one look irresponsible Proverbs 31:4

12.             It made people unwary of dangers nearby 2 Samuel 13:28

13.             Others were manipulated to do what they would otherwise not do without drinking Genesis 19:32 – 35.

14.             In Act 2:13 and I Samuel 1:15 it was implied that people drink and sprawled into senseless stupor and babbling

15.             People drink and go into licensors living Revelation 18:3

 

Warnings

          The Bible pronounces great sorrow grief and misery on alcoholics.

          “Woe to those who rise early in the morning to run after their drink, who stay late at night till they are inflamed with wine. They have hands and lyres at their   banquets, tambourines and flutes and wine, but they have no regards for the deeds of the Lord, no respects for the work of his hand…

          Woe to those who are heroes at drinking wine and champions at mixing drinks, Isaiah 5:11,22.

          A lifestyle characterized by drunkenness and an “unrestrained wild, noisy festivities attracts God’s condemnation” Amos 4:1-3; 6:6 – 7.

          Those who are indulged in drinking wine lost their moral sensitivity I Samuel 28:36 and are therefore considered as unwise Proverbs 20:1.

          The Bible in several places and contexts forbids (Leviticus 10:9) or speaks belittlingly of (Isaiah 27:3) on the use of strong drink.

 

What Have We Seen?

          We have taken a broad but certainly not exhaustive survey of what the Bible has to say on alcoholic drink. It is hoped that we can see in the light of its revelation where we stand, our preaching on the issue and what our attitude should now be. Like any mirror, you do not help matters by denying or destroying the mirror if you do not like what you saw in its. Neither do you gain any credit if the face you saw is what you had always wanted your face to look like. You can see only what you present to the mirror.

          Let us here summarize what we have seen  in the Bible. We saw that:

1.                 Wine and or the crops from which it was produced were considered a divine blessing. Lack of wine or poor yield of the grape was seen as a curse and a form of punishment from God for the people’s disobedience to him.

2.                 Wine was part of normal daily meals in homes and on Joyful and festive occasions.  

3.                 It was considered a luxury food but sometime a dangerous one.

4.                 There is o direct Biblical command to drink or not to drink except to a specific group of individuals for a time and for a purpose.

5.                 There were specific individuals who were told to abstain from drinking for a purpose.

6.                 Nobody was ever commended for drinking or not drinking.

7.                 Moderation seems the Bibles position with regards to drink in particular and food in general.

8.                 Abuse or over indulgent in strong drink was frowned upon and condemned.

9.                 Abuse or over indulgent led to unwholesome conduct, unnecessary pain and sorrow and misery to users and those close to them.

10.             Those who abused strong drinks  neither pleased God, did his will nor showed any genuine interest and respect for the things of God.

11.             More of the negative effects of drinking are highlighted than the positive ones.

12.             Certain people used the intoxicating ability to take undue advantages over others.

13.             Under its influenced people had inflicted bodily and emotional injuries on themselves and those close to them.

14.             God was certainly not happy with those whose lifestyles were characterized by drunkenness and wild and noisy parties.

15.             Misuse of strong drinks brought God’s curse and condemnations on individuals and tribes.

16.             The Christian is warned against the excess use of alcohol.

17.             Drunkenness is prohibited

18.             In context the Bible has many warnings prohibitions and denigrate the use of alcohol.

19.             For the sake of their commission and their missions God’s servants were prohibited from taking it for a time for its influence and implication on true worship and service offered to God in the spirit.

20.             The Christian is to be filled with the Holy Spirit instead of being controlled by alcoholic drink.

21.             Considerate and mature Christians are admonished to abstain from drinking for the sake of the weak in the faith.
 

          As far as food or drink is concerned the Bible as a rule does not lay emphasis on the food as it does on the person eating. It is concerned with the heart and the attitude. It certainly abhors and condemns both the abuse and making laws about food. It appeals however to the conscience of the individual in the light of his calling to faith, holy living and to God’s glory.

 

What Do We Say Now?

          Here my dear reader, I am sure is expecting a definite ‘Policy’ statement. Two questions must be uppermost in your mind at this point. Should I as a Christian drink or not drink? Is it sinful or not?

          In appealing to the Bible we had agreed (I think) that it should speak to settle and answer both questions of drink and its sinfulness. And together we agree with its verdicts.

          But are we really concerned with the verdict? I think we should. Because it will affects two vital areas of our Christian life.

          One, the verdict will affect our approach to Evangelism in places where alcoholic drink is ‘food’. And the way we view those who drink or don’t drink. And two, it will affect our consecration to holy Christian living.

          Whether a Christian should drink or not, may I with due respect throw this question back to the reader.

          We were also asking the Bible if drinking is a sin or not when we agreed to let it speak in our brief survey and the observations we made I believe the question was adequately answered. I can understand if some think I am being evasive. If there is an uneasiness tilting towards a feeling of disappointment. 

          There are those who would wish I summarized in few words what the Bible has said. Something like, “It is a sin for a Christian to drink or “It is not a sin for a Christian to drink”. While I understand with their expectation I equally suspect a wrong motivation for wanting a summery statement from this author. I suspect a desire to stay away from objectivity in order to avoid responsibility.

          It is easy for people to shift blames to others. They want to quote others in this case, a Christian author who has written to encourage drinking alcohol or condemned drinking it. I see this tendency coming mare from fellow Christians who have made laws concerning food. Well, in playing into the hands of such believers let me also quote another author.

          “I wish the Bible did teach that drinking is a sin, but it doesn’t. It contains numerous warnings against the abuse of alcohol, but nowhere does it say it is a sin. And we are not free to make the Bible say what it doesn’t say just to make our decision easier.”

          He gives a profound principle of Bible application. “Don’t bend and twist the meaning of the Biblical text to avoid an unpleasant conclusion” then he went on to say:

          “If we convolute the meaning of a text to avoid a conclusion that we find unpleasant, we might as well give up the doctrine of inerrancy if we reject the clear meaning for an interpretation that is more palatable.

          We render such a doctrine irrelevant. Indeed Christians in my position have a very strong reason to want to make drinking a sin. What after seeing the ruins it has brought to individuals close to me. After seeing the backwardness it has brought to a whole tribe? After seeing how a whole region is colonized economically and politically by its neighbors. While the sons and daughters who provide the bulk of manpower in the civil service were busy drinking those of lesser intelligent and academic attainments took over the political power and wielded it to their own economic and structural developmental advantages. As a missionary I should be happy if drinking was definitely a sin. The challenge posed by the issue of drinking in my work is enormous and often to the point of despair and discouragement.

          In spite of all my wishes, the Bible does not say drinking is a sin.  “Don’ts for the sake of food destroy what God has done. All foods may be eaten, but it is wrong to eat anything that will cause someone else to fall into sin” (Romans 14: 19, 20).

          “But food does not bring us near to God. We are no worse if we do not eat and no better if we do. Be careful however that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak.

          “When you sin against your brother in this way and wound their weak conscience you sin against Christ. Therefore if what I eat causes my brothers to fall into sin I will never eat meat so that I will not cause him to fall 1 Corinthians 8:8-9, 12-3.

          “Jesus called the crowd to him and said, ‘Listen and understand’. What goes into a man’s mouth does not make him unclean. But what comes out of his mouth. That is what makes him unclean… Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man unclean. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adultery sexual immorality, theft, false testimony slander. These are what make a man  unclean; but eating with unwashed hands does not make him unclean” Mathew 15: 10-11, 17 –20.

          These are what make a man unclean. As if that is not enough, the Bible is not only silent about drinking being a sin or not, it records of great Bible figures who drank. Jesus turned water into wine (John 2:1-11) and that he actually drank (Mathew 11:19) I sometimes wish that such places are edited out of the Bible. But, “It does scripture no honor to invent ways to make offensive events palatable to us when scripture itself records them and makes no effort to scrutinize them.”

          We must however examine the argument for or against drinking in the light of the Bible’s call to freedom in Christ, to holiness, to righteous living, to building up one another in faith, to a befitting witness to the expansion of his kingdom in the hearts of men and to living for the glory and honor of God in whatever we eat, drink or do. And when we stand on an issue with a clear conscience before God and man who is there to condemn if we drink or not?

          “Let us therefore make every effort to what leads to peace and to mutual edification.” Romans 14:19 NIV.

          “So then we must always aim at those things that brings peace and that help strengthen one another.  Romans 14:19 GNB.

 

 

CHAPTER SIX

WHAT ABOUT DRUNKENNESS

 

What is It?

          Drunkenness is a state of being intoxicated after consuming (in this context) an alcoholic beverage such as wine, beer or distilled liquor.

          “When an alcoholic beverage is ingested, the alcohol is rapidly absorbed in the stomach and intestine because it does not undergo any digestive processes. It is distributed to the rest of the body through the blood, and has a pronounced depressant action on the brain. Under the influence of alcohol, the drinker is less alert, less able to discern objects in the environment, slower in reacting to stimuli and generally –prone to sleep.”

          People get drunk when they come under the influence of alcohol. It is brought about by excessive habitual consumption of alcoholic beverages.

          Whatever a man does under this state is dictated and controlled by the effect of the alcohol.

          In drunkenness, the drinker’s will power and intellect is over come by the alcohol ingested. The sense is dulled to sound judgment. Drunkenness renders one “Insensible and imperceptive, a social nuisance, an economic ruin and a moral and spiritual reprobate. This is caused through its power to deceive conveying a false sense of clear perception, intelligence and power.”2

          The power of alcohol to deceive is so great that, “It has come to symbolize human folly and the deceitfulness of false gods. Hence it characterizes also general, moral and spiritual practices of habitual injustice and idolatry” Drunkenness results into “False consciousness, false values and practices sponsored by other gods.

          Drunken people are often characterized by careless and senseless disposition, a state in which they cannot use the senses unsteady movement on their feet, vomiting, loss of mental control, addiction and often of necessity poverty or wretchedness.


In Bible Times

          In the Bible times, people drank and got intoxicated. Their drunkenness led to immorality and other behaviours that displeased God.

          Noah after the flood got drunk and indecently exposed his body (Genesis 9: 20 –27) Lot got into incestuous relationship with his daughters after he got drunk Genesis 19:30 – 38.

          The drunk rich people perpetuated injustice (Amos 2:8); they took undue advantage to see the exposed body of the drunken (Habakkuk 2:8). Drunkenness marked the hopeless and rebellious children (Deuteronomy 21:20-21), It dulled their minds (Hosea 4:11) and made them irresponsible (Proverb 31:4).

          The Bible condemns drunkenness. It has no commendation for drunkards. Instead it portrays them as being foolish or mad (Jeremiah 51:7).

          Drunkenness is portrayed as a companion to sorrow (Ezekiel 23:33); a threat to missing out on being occupied for God (Luke 21:34). It is one of the sinful behaviours, the Christian is commanded not to live in Romans 13:13. It is one of the fruit of the flesh or acts of the sinful nature which except if repented from, those who live in it will not inherit the kingdom of God Galatians 5:21. God’s servants are commanded not to get drunk I Timothy 3:3; Titus 1:7. Living in drunkenness is a pagan and ungodly lifestyle.

          The Bible does not encourage drunkenness. It calls it sin. It describes those who live in drunkenness as being wicked, shameless, immoral, irresponsible and dirty people; greedy poor and wretched; meddlers in others affair; and irresponsible truants (Deuteronomy 21:20-21; Isaiah 19:14; Luke 7:34; Proverbs 23:21; Psalms 69:12; Mathew 24:49).

          The sin of drunkenness is so grave that God calls for repentance from it (Joel 1:5) a very stiff punishment is recommended in the fellowship of believers against the Christian living in drunkenness. The Bible calls for a disassociation from such a fellow (1 Corinthians 5:11) It went on to say that drunkards will not inherit the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:10).

 

So Where Are We?

          It is clearly seen that drunkenness from the excessive use of alcohol is a sin. “ Sin is a transgression of God’s law (John 3:4) by thought, word, deed or omission. It is wickedness, evil, iniquity. Every departure from God’s small, known or unknown, intended or accidental. On the others hand only what is at variance with God’s law is sin”3

          Here the Law is about drunkenness. Besides condemning it as habit, the Bible expressly says,

          “Do not get drunk on wine which leads to debauchery. Instead be filled with the spirit Ephesians 5:18. (New International Version)

          “Do not get drunk with wine which will only ruin you, instead, be filled with the spirit” (Good News Bible).

          Do not,” makes, the statement in this an absolute command. It is non-conditional, non negotiable and non optional. It is a command that demands only obedience.

          How is drunkenness a sin? It is a sin because it is defiance of God’s command “Do not be drunk”. It leads to other sinful or evil acts that ruins ones life and makes God unhappy. The Bible does not mince word in condemning drunkenness and drunkards. Drunkenness does not in anyway encourage, promote, enhance or lead to a life that glorifies God.

          Some have asked what if I drink and do not get drunk? Or even get drunk but do nothing sinful?

          In answering the first question we need again to ask what should guide us in choosing to drink or not to drink in the first place. We have seen that, motive, the consciousness of the Christian’s mission and purpose on earth and his sensitivity to the feeling of others are among the factors that need to be considered.

          People say, “I just drink a little”. But how much little is little? Just one calabash? And another? And another? Then a little pot? And a bigger pot? As it stand its been observed practically that people rarely stop at the little they started with. They soon get hooked and addicted. The little, often leads to a lot and ultimately to drunkenness.

          Now is it possible to be drunk without sinning? Drunkenness is not used in the scripture in the sense of qualifying other sins; though it may lead to them.

          It is a sin in itself. There shouldn’t be any debate about this.

          However if we grant that the word drunkenness qualifies or rather is the root of other sins we wouldn’t be saying anything different. The issue is that of control, who or what is in control of the mind, the will, the intellect and the emotion in the drunken state. One is a slave to who or whatever controls him.

          The Bible compares wine and the Holy Spirit in their controlling ability (Ephesians 5:18). Both take control or charge of whoever they possess. The man filled with wine acts under the directives of the alcohol that has taken control of his senses or the mind. He does exactly what he is prompted to do. So is the Christian filled with the Holy Spirit. He walks and works under the prompting of the Holy Spirit. He does not choose to do as he pleases. He is a slave and does as directed by the Holy Spirit.

          God is also jealous for the mind of the believer. He does not want the mind that should be controlled by his Spirit being controlled and ruled by alcohol or any food for that matter 

          Those who are controlled by the spirit will please God. It is doubtful if the same persons can please God under the control of alcohol.  

          The one that controls the Christian is actually his owner and master. Drunkenness is listed in the acts of the sinful nature that controls a man.  Those who are controlled by such cannot please God (Romans 8:8). The Christian however is not controlled by the sinful nature, but by the Spirit of God. “And if any one does not have the Spirit of Christ he does not belong to Christ”. But “The spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s Children” (Romans 8:16).

          Now many people have problem in defining what is sinful. They see only the outward and physical manifestations of sin. But we defined sin above as “Any thought, words, deeds motive etc that is at variance with the word of God. James 4:17 says, any one who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.

          I suppose there are many goods – towards family members, wives, neighbours, selves, and God that drunken Christians know and ought to do; but are not able because they are always drunk. They are enslaved to something they were so sure they could control. By now they know that they are wrong. The way out is to do something before they go wrong.

 

Effects of Drunkenness

          If we see drunkenness as the root of other sins, it should be a matter of great concern to the serious Christian. The experiences of drunken Characters in the Bible and our contemporaries tells us that drunkenness always leads to acts or behaviours that are scripturally and morally unsound. Even non-Christians testify this is so. Here we can list some of these unsound behaviours and acts produced by the drunken state. They are the same today as they were in the Bible times.

          Generally these effect results from the lost of sound judgment and discernment. The alcohol controlling the mind gives a false sense of reality about the world around the drunkard. He sees himself on top of the word with his false perception to both the material and the spiritual world and with his dead conscience he does everything contrary to the rule. He cannot therefore meet the Christian moral and spiritual responsibilities and expectations. The drunkard:

 

1.                 Displays indecent behaviour Genesis 9:20-23

2.                 He into sexual perversions such as incest (Genesis 19:30-38) rape, beastialism, homosexuality, lesbianism.

3.                 Uses Physical and or verbal violence against family members, neighbours and other innocent people.

4.                 Wanton oppression and injustice (Amos 2:8) People see themselves as creators of others with the right to do with them as they please.

5.                 Wanton destruction of life and property

6.                 Disgraceful and shameful bodily exposure (Habakkuk 2:8)

7.                 Insubordination and rebellion (Deuteronomy 21:20-21)

8.                 Irresponsible behaviours (Proverbs 31:4)

9.                 Cause sorrow and misery to others

10.             They end up poor and wretched. These in turn give birth to more sins.
 

          These effects are serious on the drunkard, his human and physical environment. But more serious is the effect on his relationship and communion with God.

          The writer of Ecclesiastes after examining and explaining what life is all about, he summed up the purpose of man on earth: “… fear God and Keep his commandments. For this is the whole duty of man” (Ecclesiastes 12:13)

          “He has showed you O! Man what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8)

          “To fear the Lord is to hate evil. (Proverb 8: 13). This includes all the sins that are caused by drunkenness. To relate well with God and do what he expect of us we must face him in viewing sin the way he sees it and have an awful reverence for his person or name. We must exhibit reverence and wonder and to see that fulfilling our whole duty an earth involves the lifestyle we live.

          “So for us, the fear of the Lord should do two thing. First, produce in us the same attitude towards sin that God has, which is to hate it. Second, to give us a deep respect for and understand of the power of God and the total sufficiency of God to meet man’s need.4

 

Which Way?

          The way out of drunkenness as in any other sin is repentance. It takes a close and objective look at one’s way of life. Realizing it as the wrong way; one stops and says to himself I am on the wrong way to where I am supposed to go. Repentance tells God I am sorry that I have left your way and chose to follow mine. Now that I see that I made the wrong choice, I want to came back to your own way on your own terms.” With a genuine remorse and determination on the one repenting changes his mind against his former way and turn to the way of God. Here, “The concept is that of a complete alteration of the basic motivation and direction of one’s life, and is often equivalent to conversion. 5

          Repentance is also defined as a “Genuine sorrow towards God on account of sin and an extreme dislike of sin, followed by the actual forsaking of it and humble surrender to the will and service of God.” 6

          In repenting we will do well to name our sin by name. “You wont learn to reverse self-destructive patterns if you can’t identify them by name.7

          The joy of repenting is in the fact that it is the Lord Himself calling us to it.

          He is the one promising to forgive. He will forgive and restore the good relationship that the life of drunkenness has destroyed.

          The pleasure that alcohol offers is but for a moment. At the end it leads to self-destructive habit that ultimately destroy our happiness, our relationship and even our very lives. The ruin it brings is devastating, to soul and body. But the forgiveness, the healing and the restoration the Lord offers is graciously complete.

          Though the scars of the wounds the alcohol inflicted may remain there is however a divine assurance that the pains will not remain.

          The Lord Jesus Christ died for drunkards. He loves them. He wants them to enjoy life abundantly. Let not the evil one cheat you from receiving this free and eternal gift of life. Let not what God himself has created for your pleasure be the hindrance to attaining to a blessed relationship with him.

          To the believer who is caught in this deadly sin, he needs to in addition to repentance remember.
 

1.     Not to allow any part of his body to be used for sin to be master over him Romans 6:12 – 14

2.     To offer his body as a living sacrifice and not to conform to the standards of this world Romans 12:1,2

3.     That his body is a holy dwelling place of the Holy Spirit I Corinthians 6: 19 – 20

4.     There is an absolute command to the believer not to get drunk Ephesians 5:18

5.     We ought to hate sin the way God hates it.

 

          We do recognize that drunkards are in strong chains. But the grace of God through Jesus Christ is much stronger. It can set the captive free.

          “Jesus died to pay Sin’s debt, Forgiveness to bestow; but all who try to make excuse His grace will never know.8


 

CHAPTER SEVEN

CHRISTIANITY AND STRONG DRINK

 

          So far this book has been concerned with the strong drink and how its affects Evangelism and Christian living.

          Christianity is a way of life in its own class. It lays and makes absolute claims and demands on the life of anyone, who hear and answers its call.

          Christianity points to the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the ‘author’ and the ‘finisher’ of faith of those who accept to follow him on his own terms, Christianity is therefore following and practicing the teachings and living the life of Christ after a conscious surrender of ones life and all to Him.

          This total surrender is the beginning of the Christian life. It starts with realizing the need for the forgiveness of ones evil against God. This evil – sin is the only obstacle standing in the way of relating well with him.

          Christianity makes a bold claim that true forgiveness can be obtained only in Jesus Christ. The one who offered his own life to please God so that he will forgive men?

          How sad, that many people including some preachers are ignorant of how the Christian life begins. J.C Ryle writes on this:

          “So too, how little most people know of the main design of Christianity, though they live in a Christian land. They fancy they are to go to church to learn their duty and hear morality enforced, and for no other purpose. They forget that the heathen philosophers could have told them as much as this.

          They forget that such men as Plato and Seneca gave instructions, which ought to put to shame the Christian liar, the Christian drunkard and the Christian thief. They have yet to learn that the leading mark of Christianity is the remedy it provides for sin. This is the glory and excellence of the gospel.”1

          On how to obtain this forgiveness Ryle writes further:

          “That way is simply to trust in the Lord – Jesus Christ as your Saviour. It is to cast your soul, with all its sins unreservedly on Christ – to cease completely from any dependence on your own works or doings either in whole or in parts, - and to rest on no other work but Christ’s work, no other righteousness but Christ righteousness, not other merit but Christ merit as your ground of hope.” 2

          This ‘ground of hope’ is the death and the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. He died and arose from the grave that we may live and enjoy life fully.

          This is what Christianity offers. For it is all about, “A relationship which people enjoy with Jesus Christ who was once crucified but subsequently rose to a new life.” 3 “For this Jesus who died on the cross and rose again three days after holds the key to what life was meant to be what it could be.” 4

          However, we must agree with M B Green when he observes in His book, Man Alive that:

          “Anybody in thoughtful mood will admit that there are various things which spoil this life, things which stop us living life to the full and limit our satisfaction. Christianity claims that the resurrection of Jesus makes a real difference to these frustrations.” 5 So Christianity anchored on faith in the resurrection of Christ, provides the way out. For without the living Christ there is no hope for humanity.

 

And Who is a Christian?

A Christian is the one who has found hope in Christ. He is, “A person who believes in Jesus Christ as his personal savior from sin, eternal death and the devil; one who knows that he has eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ as his personal Saviour from Sin, eternal death and the devil; one who knows that he has eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ who died for him and rose again.” 6

          The Christian is therefore the one who has come to his senses to see the ugliness of sins, the havoc it wrecks and the shame it brings. He becomes desperate only to another realization that he cannot help himself out of the mess he has found himself.  He bemoans and groans the pain and the weight of sin. But there comes a time he admits a raging conflict within himself and sincerely agree that he cannot handle it himself .In the words or Paul, such a man cries,

          What an unhappy man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is taking me to death”. Romans 7:24. Happy is the man who discovers what the great apostle discovered, that is, Freedom from sin and eternal death.  Sensible and wise people in the ages past to date have found that salvation is in Christ alone. They accepted this fact appropriated it in their lives and they lived happily. For the secret to the power of living the real life that is enjoyable is to be properly related to God through the Lord Jesus Christ.

          People get properly related to God only when they have a change of mind and will to live the why God designs it to be. And this begins after the person has gone through the “born again experience.”

          Becoming a Christian is only the beginning of a wonderful new life. God rarely takes people the moment they become Christians to heaven. He has a purpose for each and every one who come to relate with him through the Lord Jesus Christ.

          But we can never find or fulfill that wonderful and God glorifying purpose unless, one is growing as a Christian after conversion.

          Conversion is the experience of moving from darkness to light, from death to life. Salvation brings transformation, which is a process. It begins at conversion and continues daily until you are fully transformed into the image of Jesus Christ

          In nature growth takes place under favorable factors. So the Christian must go for all that makes, for a healthy Christian growth to maturity. He must maintain the discipline required to grow.

 

The Christian Message

          The Christian message is that God came down to man, full of love, truth, grace and glory. That he came to reconcile man with himself and to demonstrate how to live life the way he designed and purposed it to be. It is a message of hope and freedom to life in Christ Jesus. When one becomes a Christian he sees Christ more than being a historical or religious figure. To such a person, Christ becomes an ever-present reality. He becomes to the Christian what Michael Green says,

          “But to us the greatest thing is that he is still with us though we can not see him he shares our very lives. He talks with us and we with him everyday. He came by his Holy Spirit to take up residence in our own personalities. He is no past hero to us. He is our living God. Our aim becomes to allow him to take control and transform our characters and to help us in introducing others to God” 9

          Christianity brings a message of change. It brings a fresh and new perspective to life and all that it entails. Above all the message is about a change of ownership.

          The one who surrenders his life to Christ has by that act or declaration signed off from being owned by Satan to being the sole property of Jesus Christ. His allegiance changes to Christ too. Then under the control of Christ you will begin to acquire new ideals, many of your taste will alter completely not from conscious effort of your will, but because of the change within you. Some of the things you once did you will stop doing. Some of the things you once shunned you will do. For many this change will come suddenly, for others it will be a slow transformation of outlook, and way of life as you gradually assume the likeness of Christ.10

          The Christian message therefore brings a change in Character, a new vitality in life, a new attitude to things, a new sense of forgiveness and its accompanying joy. It gives us a new habit in place of those self ruining ones, it given us Joy, a new focus a fulfilled and a happy relationship with God and man. Above all the Christian message shifts our attention from self-centeredness to Christ centered life.

          With a complete change of priorities in life, the new Christian begins to live a new life. “The ordinary things in life takes a new look when undertaken with Christ as companion” Christ becomes the domineering power and the driving motivation in all that the Christian is and does in life.

          The evidence of this new life is seen in having a new sense of forgiveness, a desire to please God, new attitude to other people, new love for other Christians, new power over evil, new Joy and confidence new experience of prayer. In short the Christian enters a new dimension of life because:

          “Anyone who is joined to Christ is a new being; the old is gone, the new has come. All this is done by God, who through Christ changed us from enemies into his friends and gave us the task of making others his friends also. Our message is that God was making the whole human race his friends, through Christ. God did not keep on account of their sins, and he has given us the message which tells how he makes us his friends” 2 Corinthians 5: 17 –19. In other words the quality of our worship and service to God done in Obedience and faith to his word is the true test of our commitment to Christ. For those willing to live this life, there is a divine backing and resources to depend on. The Father designed it, the Son came to demonstrate it practically and the Holy Spirit gives the enabling power to live the God life, here and now.

 

Expectations From the Christian

          If Christianity is a commitment to relate with Christ, then whether the Christian knows it or not he has taken the strongest oath on earth at his initiation into the Christian family. He makes a pledge to be faithful, loyal and devoted to God and the body of Christ.

          He promised to abide by the code of conduct and ethics of the new kingdom he is joining. He also binds himself with the most solemn obligation to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ with his body, soul and spirit. He says, “I shall no longer live for myself, but for the one who gave his life in death that I may live” And like Paul he says, “I am dead… in order that I might live for God, I have been put to death with Christ on his cross, so that it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who live by faith in the son of God who loved me and gave his life for me” (Galatians 2: 10,20 GNB).

          The one who makes such a declaration goes with courage and against the tide to honor Christ in his feeding habit and other actions.

          Living like Jesus did. The one desire of the Christian becomes to live as Christ lived. He begins to see that God wants him to manifest His (God’s) character and nature. Knowing that Jesus has done it before, the Christian desires to copy him. For “Jesus has not only redeemed us through his death but also shown us through his life on earth, how God intend man to live. He is not only our Saviour, but also our forerunner (Hebrews 6:20) He has given us an example to live at all times and in all situations in perfect obedience to God” The Obedient Christian will do all that is expected to recognize and fulfill God’s purpose in this life. He will seek to serve and worship God in true holiness and humility. He will love God and his people instead of living to satisfy his carnal desires, he will lead him to do the will of God moment by moment. He will hardly want to go his way to do his own thing. Thus will he live a successful Christian life as he learns to be like Christ.

          A wise Christian will also desire to grow in prayer, in knowing God’s mind through His word, in his Obedience to the will of God and in his willingness to introduce others to Christ.

          It is expected that the Christian will aim at going deeper in his relationship with God. “That life in the spirit that is denoted by the term deeper life is far wider and richer than mere victory over sin, however vital that victory maybe. It also includes the thought of the indwelling of Christ, acute God consciousness, rapturous worship, separation from the world, the Joyous surrender of everything to God, internal union with the Trinity, the Practice of the presence of God, the communion of saints and prayer without ceasing”. These expectations from the Christian are not mere wishes or optional. They are the very essence of Christian living and the evidence of vital and vibrant Christianity.

 

Strong Drink and the Kingdom Lifestyle

          Christianity demands a very unique lifestyle from that offered by other religions and philosophies. This lifestyle differentiates the Christians from those who are not.

          A lifestyle is supposed to be a discipline one practices in order to achieve a certain goal in life. Institutions and organizations have their lifestyles expected of the individuals in them. An individual coming into such an institution or group must have prepared to adapt to it if he does not, he will find it difficult to fit into the group.

          The goal of the Christian is to be come like Christ. He wants to reach a point where the glory of God becomes his preoccupation.  Now how we feed, how we dress, our sleeping and resting habits among others greatly influences our lifestyles. People in varying occupations and callings respond differently to these factors that affect one’s lifestyle. For example the athletic ‘watches’ his weight as regards to dieting, the farmer watches his sleeping time, a soldiers goes only for those things that keeps him physically fit and at an alert. He is conscious of how he dresses or not?

          Now as Christians, no one should deprive us of our personal freedom to decide on disputable matters. When we make up our mind no one should make us feel guilty about whatever decision we made.

          Nevertheless, the Christian freedom has it limits. He is limited by the demands and the disciplines of the kingdom lifestyle. He is bound to consider exercising his freedom to enhance his spiritual growth, to build up fellow believers, to be a faithful representative of Christ on earth and to glorify God. Regards to eating food offered to idols, the Corinthian Christians had a consoling statement. “Everything is permissible for me.”

          “Yes” Paul agreed, and went further to balance their statement, “Not everything is beneficial. Everything is permissible for me but I will not be mastered by anything” 1 Corinthians 8:

          The Christian who is faced with choice to drink or not to drink should ask himself, “Are these perfectly legitimate things going to rob me of my freedom by bringing me into new bondage by gripping me in a habit I cant break it? “ 13 what will the exercise of my freedom have on people who are looking to me for moral, spiritual and ethical examples? Would my drinking or not drinking make unbelievers see Christ through me and be drawn to him?

          On if my drinking will commend Christ to unbelievers, there is a general feeling among non-Christians that true Christians are not supposed. I think it is easier to abstain than to explain that Christianity is not against alcohol. I would rather take the time and energy to be used in this explanation to preach the gospel of salvation to such an inquirer.

          People often ask, “Would I be allowed to continue my drinking after I accept Christ? My response to such people has been: in accepting Christ you are agreeing to enter into a living relationship with the person of Christ. By accepting him you yield the total control of your life to him. If after you enter into that relationship, he directs you to continue drinking, who am I to say otherwise? After this, I usually ask the inquirer my own question. “Supposing you become a Christian and the Lord says stop drinking, because of the harm he sees drinking will cause you; will you obey? I guess the ‘harm’ that the Lord will want to protect such a one from will include falling into the sin of drunkenness. This is because.

          “Many people seem to have a built in weakness towards alcohol abuse. The only way to avoid that abuse or addiction is to completely stay away from any king of alcoholic drink if a person does not drink alcohol at all; they are certainly not going to be on alcohol abuser. The effect of alcohol abuse or addiction in the world is unfathomable. There are countless broken homes, broken health, poverty and other problems that are direct result of alcohol abuse. The alcohol industry is making a huge profit on the suffering of many innocent people. Therefore one should not encourage the industry that is creating so much suffering by even buying anything from them.”

          “One of the strongest reasons against drinking alcohol is the concern about offending a weaker brother (Romans 14). Paul specifically state, it is better not to eat meat or dink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother to fall (Romans 14:21) To jeopardize one’s Christian testimony and ministry for the small pleasure that comes from alcohol is too big a risk. Combining all these arguments, many feel that the safest position for the Christian is to abstain completely from alcoholic consumption.” 14

 

Need to Get Charged?

          I once visited my neighbor’s house in the evening. I met the man cooking while the wife sat down watching. It was a very unusual domestic scene in his culture, I was curious, because the man hardly stays at home. Being younger than myself  I commended him and also commented in a light mood that, if he continues to stay this long at home helping his wife;  his would be a happy home.

          The wife who I later learnt was having a painful boil in her armpit, raised her neck teased him with her tongue outside. She then turned to me and said, “Will drinking allow him to stay at home?” we all laughed.

          Then the man as if agreeing that his wife was making a point began to tell me of another woman who nearly broke her eye. She was returning to her home late and drunk. She fell and hit her face on a stone.

          After he was finished with the story I said, you can now see what drinking is doing to you people why don’t you take ‘kunu’ if you are hungry? His face changed and began to stare at me like a small boy who didn’t know what he was saying.

          ‘Kunu?’ he later re echoed and asked shaking his head. But that will not ‘charge’ (to get intoxicated and have good feeling of delight) me, he said and went back to his cooking.

          The neighbour professes to be a Christian. He summarized in a word why many Christians drink alcohol. They have a need to be charged. That is to say they want to get intoxicated and have a feeling of being on top of the world.

          “It comes to this really” asked Michael Green, “Where do you reckon to get your stimuli – Christ or drugs, alcohol and cigarettes.” 15

          It seems many Christians are trying to find escape routes from the realities of our time. There is so much tension of modern living that people are trying to diffuse or run away from. But the Christian are looking in the wrong place. Getting stimulated in order to forget life’s problem over is a wrong solution.

          The kingdom lifestyle demands a clear mind in order to face he who is the true reality on a daily basis. Until Christians learn to get ‘charged’  or ‘high’ on Jesus they will continue to miss what life is all about. Only by sustaining the right relationship with Christ, living by the power of God and experiencing the fruit of the spirit can satisfy and keep one delighted in life.

 

Eating to Live or Living to Eat

          If the Christian drinks for the sake of the stomach, then I think his attitude should be that of moderation. The Bible calls it temperance. As in eating any other food, the Christian should be able to control the eating.

          Nobody has the night to dictate what food another Christian should eat. Since “Food is the ultimate appetite, since it is necessary for survival. So we eat to live, but when we begin to live to eat, food no longer satisfies. Instead in consumes us, and millions of people feel powerless to control their appetite for food. When your body is deprived of necessary nutrient, you naturally crave those foods, which will keep you healthy and your immune system functioning. If you eat to satisfy those natural cravings you will stay healthy and free. But when you turn to food to relieve anxiety or satisfy a lust for sweets, salts etc you will lose control and the result will negatively affect your health.” 16

          I have seen many Christians whose physical and spiritual health has been destroyed by alcohol.

          The Christian who sees strong drink as food need to ask himself, “Who is in control, me or the food I take?”

          There are many professing Christians who are enslaved by alcohol. By so allowing drink to control their lives they unwittingly switch from Jesus to alcohol as their master but the kingdom’s lifestyle demands that absolute control of the citizen’s life be control by Jesus Christ. He should be Lord at all times or not at all.

 

Is it Gluttony?

          If alcohol is taken as food, then allowing it to control the ‘eater’ has a name. It is gluttony – “ The habit or practice of eating too much.”

          Gluttony I believe is a lifestyle unbefitting of the citizens of the kingdom of heaven. Even in daily life no one seems to be comfortable having a glutton around. The “One given habitually to greedy and veracious eating and drinking” is a social misfit. I have asked several parents and adults how they will feel seeing their children and wards going to eat from one house to the other so frequently and regularly. None felt comfortable with the question. None wants a gluttonous child, because it is disgraceful. But the same adults don’t see themselves as gluttons and their drinking from morning to might as gluttony. For them glutton seem to be only in eating the regular heavy foods like rice, tuwo yams, plantain served at official family meal times.

          In the screw tape Letters’ C.S. Lewis puts words in the mouth of a senior devil, lecturing a junior devil about gluttony.  The senior devil said:

          “The contemptuous way in which you spoke of gluttony as a means of catching souls in your last letter, only shows your ignorance. One of the great achievements of the last hundred years has been to deaden the human conscience on that subject, so that by now you will hardly find a sermon preached or a conscience troubled about it… this has largely been affected by concentrating all our effort on gluttony of delicacy, not gluttony of excess.” 17

          On the category of the humans that fall easy victims of the devils use of gluttony to catch souls, the senior devil has this to say:

          “Males are best turned into gluttons with the help of their vanity… what begins as vanity can then be gradually turned into a habit. But however you approach it, the great thing is to bring him into the state in which the denial of any one indulgence – it matters not which, Champaign or tea. Or cigarette put him out. For then his charity, justice and obedience are all at your mercy… keep him wondering what pride or lack of faith has delivered him into your hand, when a simple inquiry into what he has been eating or drinking in the last twenty four hours would show him whence your ammunition comes and thus enable him by a very little abstinence to imperil your lines of communication.” 18

          There are Christians who are controlled by their stomach. They hardly see glutton as greed and greed as sin. They are so self centered that they will their appetites and desires before the Lord’s will. Of such people the Apostle Paul lamented and shed tears.

          “I have told you this many times before and now I repeat it with tears: there are many whose lives makes them enemies of Christ death on the cross.

          They are going to end up in hell because their god is their bodily desires…”  Philippians 3:18 – 19 GNB

          The NIV translates bodily desires as? “Their god is their stomach.”

          Eating food is necessary. But we are asked to eat or drink in conformity to the disciplines of the kingdom lifestyle. For we are citizens of heaven and we eagerly wait for our savior, the Lord Jesus Christ to come from heaven. (Philippians 3:20) What should please the Lord we are waiting for should be our main preoccupation. “We should please Christ and act as his responsible agents in society”.

 

To Those Already Hooked

          For the Christians who have, “Pushed beyond the will of God’s boundary”, to abuse drinks, and find that they didn’t like the result, there is hope of for them. They can be restored. As a rule, the person abusing the alcohol must accept that he is in a sin that heed to be repented of.

          The devil must have suggested that depending on alcohol for living is a means of finding self worth and esteem. It is a full lie meant to fool you. Asking you to satisfy your appetite through drink is a ploy to fuddle your mind so that you cannot understand and do the will of God. But you are far more above living only to eat. You have a better and nobler purpose in life than to impulsively continue to chase after food that turns you into an irresponsible person.

          It is frightening to know that most of the things that takes us outside God’s will have demonic connections. Because it is their business to make us disobey God.

          However, the liberator from demonic and self-imposed bondages is around. He can set you free if you are willing. Confess and repent of your sin of abusing what God has created and meant it to be taken with thanks to Him.

          If as a Christian you are hocked on alcohol and you want to be set free, may I suggest the prayer Neil T Anderson suggest to victims of substance abuse?

          “Lord I confess that I have misused substances (alcohol, tobacco, food, prescription or street drugs) for the purpose of pleasure, to escape from reality or to cope with difficulty situations resulting in the abuse of my body, the harmful programming of my mind and the quenching of the Holy Spirit. I ask your forgiveness and renounce any satanic connection or influence in my life through my misuse of chemicals or food. I cast my anxiety onto Christ who loves me, and I commit myself to no longer yield to substance abuse, but to the Holy Spirit. I ask you heavenly father to fill me with your Holy Spirit in Jesus name. Amen.” 19

          “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. John 6:36.

 

 

References  

Chapter 1

1. The complete Christian dictionary

2. Intervarsity Christian Fellowship of the U.SA. Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospel copyright 1992

3. David O’Brien: Today’s Handbook for Solving Bible Difficulties page 367

4. The complete Christian dictionary

5. David O’Brien Today’s Handbook for Solving Bible Difficulties. Page 367

6. David Werner et al: Where There Is No Doctor –A village health care hand book for Africa

 

Chapter 2

1. R.B Bunnet general geography in diagram copyright 1973 Long Man Group London England page 232

 

Chapter 3

1. C S Lewis Mere Christianity. Macmillan publishing co Inc 1960 27th printing 1978

 

Chapter 4

1. The Complete Christian dictionary

2. Ibid

3. Ibid

4. Derek Prime: Bible guidelines- Finding out God’s plan, spiritual direction and personal guidance from the Bible. Christian focus publication TI Tain Ross-shine reprinted 1997

5. John Allen: Rescue Shop Ten Workshop To Give Christians The Skills They Need To Recover People For Jesus Exeter The Paternoster Press

6. Ibid

7. David O’Brien :Today’s Handbook for Solving Bible Difficulties

8. A.W. Tozer: This World: Play Ground Or Battle Ground Published under permission by Evangel publication publishing arm of evangel bookshop RR1-4 Nasarawa road Kaduna p .o box 3953 Kaduna

 

Chapter 5

1. Dictionary of Jesus

2. N.I.V. exhaustive concordance –Hebrew to English dictionary and index

3. The new concise bible dictionary intervarsity press pg 581

4. David O’Brien

 

Chapter 6

1. Encyclopedias Britannica inc. copyright 2002

2. Harpers Bible dictionary1985

3. The complete Bible dictionary

4. Joy Dawson- intimate friendships with God. Chosen book cc1986 Fleming h Revel Company. Old Tappan. New jersey pg20

5. The new concise Bible dictionary

6. The complete Christian dictionary

7. Reverting self-destructive patterns. A product of the chapel of the air cc Multimoh press 10209 s e divisions Portland oregon 97266 box 30 Wheaton illionois 60189-6030

8. From our daily bread quoted by Joy Dawson

9. David O’Brien page 369

10. A W. Tozer: this world playground or battleground



Chapter 7

1. The cc dictionary

2. JC Ryle: Forgiveness and the cross of Christ.  Worldwide Ministries, 1998. Sound books publishing Cheshire England.  Page 11-12

3. Ibid page 16- 17

4. M B. Green: Man Alive pg 14

5. ibid pg17

6. ibid

7. Jamie Buckingham: Power for living cc 1993 revised 1999. Arthur s demos foundation pg 65

8. ibid page 66

9. M B. Green –Man Alive page 24

10. Billy Graham: the Jesus generation cc1971 page 152 –153

11. Zac Poonen –living as Jesus lived published in Nigeria by focus Christian publishers FCS book center, 6 Noad Avenue P O. Box 1413 Jos page 5

12. AW Tozer the world play ground or battle ground page 42

13. M B Green:  new life new lifestyle

14. Joseph A. Ilori (editor): Manual for teachers of Christian Religious Knowledge in Junior Secondary schools. Cc 2002 International Institute for Christian studies Jos Nigeria.  Page 150

15. M B Green: new life new lifestyle page 108

16.  Neil t Anderson- the bondage breakerpg135 –136

17. C S Lewis: the Screwtape letters-letters from a senior to a junior devil. Fontana books sixth impression 1959 page 86

18. ibid page 89

19. Neil T Anderson: The Bondage Breaker. Harvest house publishers Eugene, Oregon, 97402, USA cc 1993 page 205


 

About the Author
 

Namani J. Nharrel (BSc. Agriculture) is a missionary with Calvary Ministries (CAPRO) –an indigenous Cross Cultural Nigerian Mission Agency.

Nharrel with Laku his wife works as pioneer church planters. They have four children Yammune, Seramkong Kamduhl and Yamkwada. They come from Lapan in Gombe State of Nigeria.

Nharrel has written and published four books:

Frankly Speaking Dear Lord,

 Reasonable Madness,

 This Over Familiar God and

 An Eye for God

 He has also written several other books that are yet to be published.

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