Soft-Serving God’s Word   Leave a comment

My friend Sylvia lives in Australia, where church attitudes toward drinking (even in Baptist churches) are more relaxed than in the United States. Still, she recently told a story about how her daughter who is the same age as my daughter(21) attended a backyard barbecue held by a local emerging church youth leadership team. There was a mixed age group of 16 to 24. The legal drinking age in Australia is 18, but “responsible adults” may provide alcohol on private property with parental permission if done in a “responsible manner as prescribed by law.”

Okay, I’m all right with that and so is Sylvia. Growing up in a non-Christian home, I drank with my parents from age 13 on. Because my husband Brad is a recovering alcoholic, we’ve encouraged our children not to drink alcohol, but our daughter was comfortable to text me from Mexico on her 21st birthday to say she’d had her first full beer and was “ready to go to sleep now, what a downer”. I prefer sobriety personally, but am in favor of responsible drinking, though I think my definition may be a great deal more strict than many other parents.

What Sylvia’s daughter described, however, didn’t seem “responsible.” It seemed to her (and to her mum and I) that most people were there to “get drunk” rather than exercise control consistent with their Christian beliefs.

Sylvia asserts that many Australian youth are having difficulty distinguishing the difference between Christ-like behavior and the behavior of the world. It’s a fine line that Christian struggle with in every generation, but given the constant barrage of worldly standards and expectations pushed on our youth through all multimedia channels, it’s probably not surprising that they are confused about excessive drinking, casual sex and drug taking.

“Pastors of think they’ll win over the cool kids by forming the church into the cool kids’ pop-culture image are liable to find themselves even less relevant than when they started.” (Brett McCracken, Hipster Christianity: When Church and Cool Collide)

McCracken experienced a similar party of churched kids in Los Angeles and he wondered whether “a non-Christian who came to the party would have any clue that these revellers were people devoted to following Christ?” Good question! “I couldn’t see a lot of evidence,” my friend Mark said about a similar party at his neighbor’s house, also in Los Angeles.

The Bible does not require absolutely sobriety. Jesus turned water into wine and it was GREAT wine. Pleasure is meant to be a part of the Christian life, but we are called to something higher than scratching our physical itches. Whatever we do, wherever we do it, we should strive to show Christ in our behavior. I know people who can drink a beer or a glass of wine and still act in a Christ-like manner and they know when to stop drinking before they reach a point where Christ would be ashamed of their representation of Him. I also know people who cannot do that and I estimate that they are the larger group. Obviously, I know about alcoholism, but I would assert that many of those who cross that line cannot excuse their behavior on a genetic weakness, but on a lack of understanding of what it means to live for Christ.

Living an authentic, joyful life in Jesus Christ takes commitment and an understanding of true Christ-like behavior and lifestyle that can only be garnered through sound teaching. The current compromised teachings of the growth-driven, market-oriented, user-friendly “church” leaves many young people searching for answers that the adults around them seem unwilling or unable to provide.

“But a time is coming – and now is here – when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such people to be his worshipers. God is spirit, and the people who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” John 4:23-24

The Biblical answer is pretty clear. It doesn’t require a soft-serve version. We need to worship the Father as He asks us to — in Spirit and Truth, for the real power to change people’s lives is God’s alone.

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