The challenge of walking with the God who knows me
Names changed throughout except in some cases where the person involved has been or is in ministry.
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If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. 2 Cor 5:17
Romans 14:14 (NIV)
“As one who is in the Lord Jesus, I am fully convinced that no food is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for him is is unclean ..”
Raul was a machinist in a clothing factory. I met him in a park, we talked of spiritual things, shortly afterwards he came to faith. We began to meet together to study the Bible. I would go to his apartment and we would talk around the kitchen table.
The first time we met he went to the fridge to offer me a drink. The most obvious thing about the fridge was that it was full of beer. So, what did he offer me? – a Coke. I was surprised, I would have preferred a beer. He was apologetic about the presence of the beer, but I assured him that I saw no problem with alcohol. So, having been assured he gave me my Coke and had a beer himself. I could not understand his attitude.
Looking back it was fairly obvious that in Rueben’s heart there was a problem. From my objective stand point I could see no absolute Biblical injunction against alcohol, but it should have been clear to me that this weaker brother did see a problem, and in fact I should have challenged him. Not because I saw a problem but because he saw one, and “The man who has doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin.” So, though there may not be anything intrinsically wrong in drinking beer, for Raul there was a problem and because he could not drink with a clear conscience he was drinking in sin before God.
Ultimately, it was God who had to get his attention. Some time later I went to visit him only to be told that he was in hospital. I went to visit him there, and found him in a very bad condition with kidney failure. He would never be allowed to drink again. How much better it would have been if I had challenged him earlier.
It was only at the end of my time in America that a friend explained to me about alcohol. I had spent my years there thinking that the Christians were getting upset about nothing. The only basis they had against alcohol was that it was a bad testimony, and surely that was a circular argument. It was only a bad testimony because they said it was bad, so if they didn’t then that would end the problem. All this about the wine in the new testament being grape juice really did not hold water. This friend explained to me that he was happy to have a drink and often kept some beer in the fridge, but he would never drink in the presence of those who did not believe because they thought that drinking was bad. Finally this issue made sense. If those around think a thing is bad before God, then if I join in doing it, I have just written myself off in their eyes. If they carry on after having apparently met with God, then they have not really taken God seriously, and one is left wondering about the rest of their commitment.
After all these years I had been getting it completely the wrong way around. I had been drinking with my non-believing friends thinking that they did not have a problem, but not with my Christian friends thinking they did. After this conversation, I stopped drinking beer with my friends from work. The reaction was immediate and strong. It was like I was letting the side down in not joining them in their little sinful indulgences. I was really surprised by it, and though it was maybe four years late, I was grateful for the advice I had been given.