“Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts. And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Ephesians 5:18-20 NLT
Drunkenness. As Paul wrote, it ruins lives. But not only the lives of the drunk but the lives of those in their families and communities. Health destroyed. Destitution probable. The future for an alcoholic is bleak except for the fact that there is a loving Heavenly Father. There are many testimonies from men and women who have found healing and a new life through the power of the Holy Spirit, prayer and care leading to salvation and freedom. And it started with a pilgrim introducing a drunk to Jesus. But from those who don’t find God, the slippery slope can end in an early death with the final years blighted by illness and misery. I know because that is what happened to my sister-in-law.
On my early morning prayer walks, there is a man I occasionally meet who is an alcoholic. The ravages of drink are clearly visible in his face. His unsteadiness on his feet, even first thing in the morning, betrays a legacy of inebriation. He is usually locked into his own world, but I try and speak with him, desperately trying to find common ground over which we can walk and talk together. Always looking for an opportunity to share the love of God. One day, when he was more lucid than usual, he opened up and shared how he would love to get a job. But in the natural world he was a reject. A man to be managed, rather than helped, by the society around him. But in God’s kingdom there is a place for him. God will never turn away a repentant sinner. I’ll keep trying to introduce him to the love and forgiveness of God. And I’ll pray for him in the meantime.
A dear lady I know is a very committed Christian in a family blighted by alcohol and drug addiction. It’s a family where misery and devastation is constantly knocking at the door. She is a lung cancer survivor but suffers from constant ill-health. Her brother, a lovely Christian man who I once had the privilege of knowing, died in his forties from lung cancer – he was a very heavy smoker. Her husband, died young, what of I don’t know because she doesn’t speak of him. This lady had four children – three boys and a girl – but sadly in the past year or so the two oldest boys have died in their forties of substance misuse – alcohol and drugs. A family destroyed. A family devastated.
So Paul was right when he advised not to get drunk on wine. I would add to his list beer, and anything else containing alcohol, while we’re at it. And I’m sure if drugs were available in his day he would have been writing about them as well. He wasn’t advocating teetotalism. He was just saying that we must stop drinking wine before we get drunk. I personally have no objection to drinking wine. It can be a pleasant companion to a good meal. Or perhaps something that would be appropriate in a social setting. But like many things in life, an alcoholic beverage is good in small quantities, dangerous if taken to excess. And potential addiction is always lurking in dark corners.
As pilgrims in our societies, moving slowly but surely through the corridors of life, alcohol will never be far away. Premises dispensing alcohol are ubiquitous, at least in Western societies. So as Christians we cannot avoid contact with drinks that contain alcohol. Of course, we can exercise our right to free choice, and replace them with soft drinks. And alcohol-free wines and beers (and even gin I understand) is available. Drunkenness is a dark place for many but we can shine our light into the lives of needy people who have been seduced by an alcohol-fuelled lifestyle. We can show a better way. And we can share God’s love and compassion with people who have been left to their fates by institutions and governments who seem powerless or unwilling to get involved in their misery.
Paul goes on to write about being filled with the Holy Spirit, but more of that in tomorrow’s blog.