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Author: Ron Graham


Abstinence and Teetotallers
—Drawing a line

We now raise the question of whether one must practise total abstinence. From the outset, I must say that I cannot answer this one for you. I can only help you to answer it for yourself, and hope you will do so responsibly and advisedly. "Let each one be persuaded fully in his own mind" (Romans 14:5).

The Lord will hold you accountable for what you decide (Romans 14:12). This is your judgment, and it's on your head. So, you see, I do not raise any idle question here.

1 Judge Yourself

The first thing to consider is whether you yourself are perfect with regard to the following...

In the matter of Conscience if, in your own conscience, there is doubt or guilt about drinking hard liquor, then you are, to put it bluntly, damned if you drink (Romans 14:22-23). The thoughts of a man are known by the spirit of man within him (1Corinthians 2:11). Therefore examine your own thoughts and conscience carefully with regard to alcoholic drinks.

Regarding Drunkeness the law of Christ specifically states, "Do not get drunk" (Ephesians 5:18). Do you have any tendency to get drunk? Have you ever been drunk? If so, your weakness is demonstrated. Any drink you take is one step toward sin.

How can you be certain you will never get drunk again —unless you are totally abstinent from the stuff that can make you drunk?

2 Consider Others

Secondly, the same two problems must be considered not just in relation to yourself, but also in relation to your influence on others...

Regarding conscience you may judge your own conscience to be clear about strong drink, but you cannot be sure that the consciences of others are clear like yours.

It is your responsibility not to "wound their conscience when it is weak" (1Corinthians 8:12) and "not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in your brother's way" (Romans 14:13).

As to drunkeness you may have no problem with alcohol, but a lot of people do. They have a weakness for alcohol. Consuming alcohol without drunkeness and addiction is not an option for them.

How can you pray, "Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil" (Matthew 6:13) if, by your drinking, you are leading people into temptation and evil?

3 Draw a Line

Thirdly, you have to judge where to draw the line.

Solomon said, "The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer the penalty" (Proverbs 27:12). Where will you take refuge from the dangers of alcohol? Where will you draw the line of retreat, the line behind which you are safe?

You need to draw the line in a definite and fixed place. There's no point drawing a line like an air craft sometimes does in the sky. That line soon becomes indistinct and moves wherever the wind blows it.

Total abstinence is absolute. It is a definite and fixed position. Moderation is hard to define. How many drinks in how many hours is moderate? One is likely to "keep going and suffer the penalty" (Proverbs 27:12).

How many drinks in how many hours constitutes total abstinence? Precisely zero, always zero for all and sundry. It's a very reliable line to get behind, isn't it?

Peter says, "Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God" (1Peter 2:16).

You should always remember that as a free person, you have the freedom to choose not to exercise your freedom! The principle of moderation is generally a very good principle, but trying to practise moderation in things which are associated with evil can be a balancing act that you'll find near to impossible.

Evil can easily hide itself behind the high principle of moderation. It is better to draw a line that completely disassociates you from evil. Where the evils of alcohol are concerned, isn't total abstinence from strong drink the sensible and safe place for you to draw that line?

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