“Jesus walks into a bar….” sounds like the start of a sketchy joke.

What would Jesus do if you invited him to have a beer at your grill-out, the local pub, or sporting event?

Many would say Jesus wouldn’t condemn you, but he wouldn’t tolerate it either. They’d have you believe He would refuse a taste and probably share a parable about why nobody should.

I used to think that. I know my fellow faithful are probably thinking that I changed my opinion to fit my love of tasty brews. It’s actually the opposite.

The more I studied, the more I understood that many people conjure up their own messages, or worse…listen to some other person preach their interpretation of what the Bible says of the modern world.

Having a few beers, glasses of wine, or my tumbler of Kentucky bourbon is no more a sin than eating more than your share of Doritos.

Yeah, I said it. They are either both sins or neither one is. I side with neither.

Mom Loves Her Wine

I attend church regularly, listen to Christian programming, and read lots of Christian authors. I do daily bible study and frequent journaling. I’ve read the entire Bible only twice, but have read certain books, passages and all of the New Testament many times.

There is not one single verse, not one word Jesus spoke, or any of his disciples books that say drinking is a sin. Not one.

Do you know what Jesus’ first recorded miracle was?

He was at a wedding and his mom was upset the party had run out of wine. She begged her son to take care of it. Like all sons who have a mom nagging them, He did. In fact, his wine was better than the wine that had run out. (John 2:1-11)

The man has supernatural powers that raise the dead and his first miracle was to keep the wine flowing at a party. I love it.

To many, drinking means getting drunk. To others, drinking means having a few beers while watching the Bengals fumble away another playoff.

Many Christians will beat you over the head with their Bible or brow beat you with condescending looks, judgmental demeanor, and passive aggressive “jokes”. Jesus had more problem with folks like them than he did anybody else.

Are You Ready to Party?

I was at Ohio University on Halloween when I was 18. Athens goes WILD…

Me in my OU dorm room, “The Hair Years” (i.e. 1994)

UpTown, as they call it, fills with people (mostly 18-25 year olds) and they have some of the craziest and most creative costumes you’ve ever seen. They party in the street.

These kids were having more “fellowship” than what I’ve seen in most churches. They’re meeting new people, laughing, reminiscing with old friends, and just having a good time. No REAL harm was being done in that moment.

That was the scene when I noticed a sign nailed to a 2 x 4 that somebody was holding. It read “R U E“? (The E was painted red.)

I chewed my cheek as I stared at the sign and the group gathered below it. I tried to think what it might be trying to say. While I contemplated, I noticed people began to throw things and yell at these people as they moved past them in the middle of the street.

The sign people were standing in the middle of the street, already packed shoulder to shoulder with ghouls, blues brothers, and hot nurses.

I was conflicted. I didn’t know why I felt bad. I sort of hurt for the sign people once I realized they were warning all of us about End Times and our salvation (Are You Ready?). But I also felt bad about the disruption they were causing. Most were there to just have a good time.

Now I look back at that situation and think, “That is exactly the kind of behavior that turns people off to Christ.” We should be welcoming people, not guilting or “convicting” them into submission.

I’ve known far too many who were “saved” under pretenses such as these…yet all of them eventually left the church.

Heart Conviction

Using fear tactics or guilting people into things may get them to do it…but has their heart changed? That doesn’t work and for good reason. That’s not how God intends for us to grow His Kingdom.

Genuine conviction is a call for a change in your life, and it begins in the heart.

It is stirred somewhere deep in reflection between an individual and their creator. He might certainly convict you to refrain from alcohol, not to eat too much, not to stare lustfully at a magazine, or any number of other things we humans indulge in. Especially if they keep you from His purpose for your life.

Those who have been victim to guilt or fear driven strategies from other people typically don’t stick around. They have such a negative experience with it that they may never come back and have potentially shut the door on a relationship with Christ altogether. That should upset every Christian.

To non-believers, those “sign people” stood out as confirmation that, in fact, Christians are judgmental and obsessed with telling others they’re going to Hell.

Obstructing people, being in the way, using fear, even guilting people…is not love.

It spreads a message alright. A message that Christians are stubborn, annoying, and self-righteous. I know lots of people that are okay with this. I am not.

Jesus was a master of drawing in many that others called “lost”. Not religious folks, not “clean” people…but the sinful, the street thugs, prostitutes, criminals, and other outcasts in that culture. He didn’t draw them in with a picket sign, a bull-horn or by obstructing their activity.

Sober, Fat, and Addicted to Porn

I think that the Christians today who used to drink but stopped when they “found the Lord” come in a variety of types. There are those that probably had a problem. They have legitimate reason to celebrate sobriety.

I also understand the argument that your decision to drink as a Christian may subliminally give an observer (potentially alcoholic) the freedom to go ahead. I’d argue that this is true with everything.

Won’t eating the extra large piece of cake in front of the diabetic tempt them to consume a life altering, perhaps even fatal, bite? It very well could lead to them binge eating junk as soon as they are alone.

Won’t viewing a TV show with partial nudity give a porn-addicted man the open door to his own despair?

Christians shouldn’t gossip, eat too much, boast, covet possessions, lust, lie, cheat or steal. What church isn’t filled with these people?

When we do these things in front of people who have compulsions related to them, aren’t we encouraging them in the same way? Even if we are doing it unknowingly?

When the overweight pastor reaches for seconds on sister Betty’s fried chicken, isn’t he influencing others who struggle with health to reach for it as well? I know a lot of overweight pastors. I’ve been to enough church buffets to see plenty of obese congregations. You think obesity doesn’t wreck lives, relationships and connection with God?

I’m not calling people fat. I’m just saying eating more than a serving of ice cream (1/4 cup) and drinking a few beers are no different. At all.

Drunkenness is a sin, the bible is clear on that. In the Bible account of Noah, he is found by his sons, naked, drunk and asleep in a tent. He wakes up angry and curses his son…He clearly had a problem. When aware of other people’s struggles, of course we should act accordingly. Don’t have a beer in front of Noah.

The problem is that being unaware is inevitable. You always run the risk of tempting others.
That is unless you plan on:
eating nothing…
drinking nothing…
watching nothing…
saying nothing…
doing nothing…
What joy you would be for others to be around. Good luck growing the Kingdom.

Bengals, Barstools, and Jesus

As I studied the Bible I also realized that the few times alcohol is actually mentioned, it is a mixed bag of celebration (weddings, Jesus meals) and those hardship stories and warnings about the dangers of being drunk and damages of over-indulgence.

The act of drinking itself is not a sin. It is the mind altering effect, the aftermath, the consequence of too much, the potential distraction, that is where sin lives. That can be the result of overindulgence in many things, not just alcohol.

“Jesus walks into a bar……and?

………….buys everyone a round.”

He certainly wouldn’t march in there with a “R U E” sign. He wouldn’t tell them they are all going to hell. He wouldn’t even quietly judge them.

No, I believe he’d pull up a bar stool and start a conversation. Maybe something like, “Why can’t Marvin Lewis figure out the challenge flag thing? I remember this one time when I challenged the pharisees in the temple……”

Intrigued, the man next to him, takes a sip of his free beer, leans in and listens.

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