Much has been posted about the use of porn amongst Christians. We have become familiar with alarming statistics like: “2 out of 5 church going men watch porn several times a week; or, 56% of divorce cases involve one party having an obsessive interest in porn…” (stats: setfreesummit.org). And by God’s abundant grace we need wholesale repentance from this sin, and a pursuit of holiness in Christ that continues to deny all and every one of these deceitful desires in our hearts.
But less has been said about its possible twin ill: alcoholism.
Possibly the two greatest spiritual cancers in the church today, especially as it concerns our sanctification or our christian ethic, are pornography and alcoholism.
Pornography is an immoral, addictive, noxious behaviour leading to fornication and all kinds of sexual sins.
Alcoholism is an abuse of alcohol leading to drunkenness, dependency / addiction and a host of social ills.
Yes, it is true that there are other spiritual cancers existing in the church today. And they are equally troubling, like a growing secularism, rampant materialism, drug abuse, and so on, but pornography and alcohol may still have the greatest scourge on the church today.
The reason many do not venture to speak about alcoholism amongst the saints is because many do not see it as a problem. We parade drinking as the one freedom in Christ that is sanctioned in Scripture, and by doing this give tacit consent to its abuse. Yes, we know the texts that defend a little alcohol for the stomach:
No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments. 1 Tim 5:23
Or enjoyed at a wedding:
Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now. John 2:10
Or other celebratory events:
Use the silver to buy whatever you like: cattle, sheep, wine or other fermented drink, or anything you wish. Then you and your household shall eat there in the presence of the Lord your God and rejoice.(Deut 14:26),
But what happens when the little becomes a lot, or certainly too much?
Or, what happens when alcohol becomes the most important part of any camping trip?
Or, what happens when our children rarely see us at an event without an alcoholic beverage in our hand?
Or, what happens when our youth are uber excited about turning 18 or 19 or 21 only because then they can have a legally sanctioned party with alcohol?
Or, what happens when alcohol moves from a freedom to spiritual bondage so that we crave and demand its company every weekend with our friends, (or worse every night), and then find the need to joke about it, promote and even defend its use at every juncture even over social media?
How do we effectually diagnose this spiritual malady?
And what impact does it have on our soul and the advancement of the Kingdom?
What kind of new life in Christ is still tapped into the old life of alcoholism, which only seeks to destroy the glorious, hope-filled life that Christ purchased for us?
We know that all alcoholics start as moderate drinkers though not all moderate drinkers are alcoholics – granted. All the same, all those who get drunk start with a first drink. We have all seen this happen and we have witnessed its destructive even licentious effects. I remember an older man who once attended our church here in Lae periodically for a year or two but never fully committed himself to Christ.
Once, in a state of inebriation, he raped a young (15 year old) girl.
( Unfortunately, I do not know how the matter was dealt with by the law, but sadly many cases here in PNG are not brought to the attention of the police.)
When I saw him again, I confronted him. He tried to justify his damnable act. He said it began when his mate poured a beer in front of him. He was trying to resist, he pined. “But when I see it foam and swish in the glass and absorb its smell, everything in me says I want that, I crave that, and I need that!! I can’t help myself!” (cf Prov 23:31). My heart burns with anger for the pain he caused this young girl. Justice was not served. even though before this perversity we had preached and shared with him repeatedly the hope, the freedom in Christ purchased for him on Golgotha and his desperate need to repent.
Sadly, we all know too many stories, maybe not as perverse as this one, of men and women enslaved to this deceitful but ruthless taskmaster. (Eph 5:18 cf 2 Sam 13:28; Is 28:7 etc).
It is true we live in a porn riddled age but we also live in an alcohol saturated age and the cost on the souls of the saints may be equally destructive.
These dual ethical ills (read: lusts of the flesh) converge in unilaterally destroying an unfettered love and passion for Christ and the advancement of His Kingdom. An argument could be sustained that if these two idols (which ferment into a spiritual cancer) were more firmly rejected in the hearts of Christ’s followers – by the abundant grace afforded them by the One who broke these chains on Calvary’s tree – there would likely be a possible hundredfold increase in passion for mission, the lost, the expansion of Christ’s Kingdom and the advancement of the Church…and all for God’s glory.
Just one example: we struggle to find young men ready to enter the ministry in order to preach and proclaim the awesome Gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ. There maybe any number of reasons why they are not entering by the hordes, but may it be in part that we are loosing this battle to fill our seminaries with potential labourers because the potential labourers are living with one or both of these spiritual cancers?
Scripture says you can’t serve God and mammon.
Neither can you serve God and porn or alcohol.
But the joy and POWER of the Gospel is that in Christ there is freedom from the enslavement from either or both of these. All praise to God because His grace is abundant to save!
More than that, this purchased freedom in Christ clears the mind for the Spirit to renew and fan into flame a passion for what counts – the exaltation of Christ in every corner of this lost world!
I am not condemning alcohol because Scripture doesn’t. Scripture even considers wine a blessing for instance, in Gen 27:28, we read the blessing,
“May God give you heaven’s dew
and earth’s richness—an abundance of grain and new wine.”
Though at the same time Scripture is replete with warnings about its abuse. For example, Prov 20:1 states,
Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler…
And 1 Cor 6:10 states,
“…nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers…will inherit the kingdom of God.”
Finally, Proverbs 23:30-35 states,
“Do not look at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup and goes down smoothly. In the end it bites like a serpent and stings like an adder…and your heart utters perverse things.”
I am speaking out against alcoholism and the abuse of alcohol.
In the end, friends, if we turn a blind eye to its abuse because we do not want to be seen as a legalist, or a teetotaler, or we don’t want anything to infringe on our own drinking habits this is unquestionably selfish at best. At worst, if we turn a blind eye to its abuse we may be perpetuating unrestrained drinking amongst church-goers and desecrating Christ’s Name before a lost world.
It is in this light that this spiritual cancer needs to be addressed, lovingly but firmly, wisely and in a Christ-glorifying way. Simply put, we need to address the household idols of our times in clear and direct language.
My humble prayer is that I have at least started down that path…
Pastor Ian Wildeboer
This guest post was written Ian Wildeboer, Missionary Pastor in Lae,
Papua New Guinea, and has been edited and reformatted from the original
which can be found on his Facebook page.