Tuesday, August 22, 2006
Last night, Thomas and I went out for a meal to celebrate his birthday, and we got onto the subject, which quite often comes up in conversation, about the issue of non-alcoholic drinking within the Salvation Army.
I have to confess that although I'm happy when people approach me, and ask about The Salvation Army and question our stance against drinking alcohol, my heart often feels heavy and the biggest sigh imaginable comes from deep within me. Why is this? Don't get me wrong, the smallest chance of sharing my faith with someone is the greatest priviledge, yet, maybe it's because I feel I can't speak enough for my Lord, because I'm too busy trying to defend The Salvation Army and the oath I took to not engage in drinking alcohol.
I have no problem with people having a drink (getting drunk is the problem)...it doesn't offend me, it doesn't stop a friendship developing, and I certainly don't judge people by somehow thinking I am better than them. Yet, when others see that you don't drink, they sometimes mentally push you aside and don't want to involve you in their social circle...I've not judged them...but they've judged me!
Anyway, what's the point I'm trying to make here? Jesus said that we were to preach the gospel and heal the sick. If someone you care for had been diagnosed with diabetes, and was finding it really difficult giving up the chocolate, would you offer them nothing but chocolate biscuits when they came over for tea.... If someone you care for had lung cancer as a result of smoking and they were really struggling with giving the smoking up, you wouldn't sit puffing on your cigarette in their company, would you? No....because you would be playing on their weakness.
God cares for us all, therefore our challenge is to love others too. Even the drunk on the street. If someone you cared for was an alcoholic, and was severly struggling with giving up the drink...would you sit with them and drink, or even offer them some?
"The question keeps coming up regarding meat that has been offered up to an idol: Should you attend meals where such meat is served, or not? We sometimes tend to think we know all we need to know to answer these kinds of questions—but sometimes our humble hearts can help us more than our proud minds. We never really know enough until we recognize that God alone knows it all.1 Corinthians 8 (The Message)
Some people say, quite rightly, that idols have no actual existence, that there's nothing to them, that there is no God other than our one God, that no matter how many of these so-called gods are named and worshiped they still don't add up to anything but a tall story. They say—again, quite rightly—that there is only one God the Father, that everything comes from him, and that he wants us to live for him. Also, they say that there is only one Master—Jesus the Messiah—and that everything is for his sake, including us. Yes. It's true.
In strict logic, then, nothing happened to the meat when it was offered up to an idol. It's just like any other meat. I know that, and you know that. But knowing isn't everything. If it becomes everything, some people end up as know-it-alls who treat others as know-nothings. Real knowledge isn't that insensitive.
We need to be sensitive to the fact that we're not all at the same level of understanding in this. Some of you have spent your entire lives eating "idol meat," and are sure that there's something bad in the meat that then becomes something bad inside of you. An imagination and conscience shaped under those conditions isn't going to change overnight.
But fortunately God doesn't grade us on our diet. We're neither commended when we clean our plate nor reprimanded when we just can't stomach it. But God does care when you use your freedom carelessly in a way that leads a fellow believer still vulnerable to those old associations to be thrown off track.
For instance, say you flaunt your freedom by going to a banquet thrown in honor of idols, where the main course is meat sacrificed to idols. Isn't there great danger if someone still struggling over this issue, someone who looks up to you as knowledgeable and mature, sees you go into that banquet? The danger is that he will become terribly confused—maybe even to the point of getting mixed up himself in what his conscience tells him is wrong.
Christ gave up his life for that person. Wouldn't you at least be willing to give up going to dinner for him—because, as you say, it doesn't really make any difference? But it does make a difference if you hurt your friend terribly, risking his eternal ruin! When you hurt your friend, you hurt Christ. A free meal here and there isn't worth it at the cost of even one of these "weak ones." So, never go to these idol-tainted meals if there's any chance it will trip up one of your brothers or sisters."
I know that obviously in this circumstance, what they were eating was the problem, not the consumption of alcohol, but the point is the same. William Booth, the founder of The Salvation Army wanted to tell the world that Jesus loved them, and that Jesus wasn't just for the middle-class but for the whosoever....the drunk man on the street! William Booth had a great desire and a call from God to help deliver these "brothers and sisters", and that meant helping them first with their physical needs and then their spiritual needs.
Here we see what it's all about! The Salvationists of that day would have done more harm than good if they had shared in a drink with the individual whether socially or whilst in communion...in doing so they would "trip" their friend up.
They would have been no help to that person at all, but instead would just be aiding them to help destroy their lives even more.
People today still need our help...some people's lives and their families have been destroyed by alocohol by those who can't simply enjoy a drink socially. There are people who have a weakness where alcohol is concerned.
I'm proud to be in the Salvation Army, but much more than that, I'm so grateful that I belong to God, and he calls us even today to spread the gospel to the whosever. Maybe you think that there's no need for such a commitment to be made anymore to abstain from alcohol, but take a look around you and you'll see....never has there been a better time.
I'm certainly not saying that everyone should do this...but for me it's right...it's the way for me and I'm proud of the stance that I have taken as my own personal commitment to not just The Salvation Army but most importantly to God!
Posted by littlelaughalot ::
10:56 am ::
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