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It has been a while now since Preston’s thought provoking posts on alcohol. But since the proper use of Christian freedoms in general and alcohol in particular always make for interesting discussion, I will share a real life scenario that happened to me a few years ago (1998 in fact—not sure if that counts as a few years or not).

I was teaching and coaching in the public school system. I was serving as a part of a church body that had a zero tolerance policy on any sort of alcohol. Well, over the course of time I built a good relationship with the parents of various students I had. One dad in particular invited me out one day after practice “to have a beer and talk about life.” I tried the gracious redirect: “I would love to go hang out (without alcohol) and talk about life with you.” He was not interested. This happened in some form three more times over the next month and a half. He would ask to talk about life and partake in some libation. I always tried to find an alternative (drink a soda, have a meal, etc.), but he always declined.

One last bit of information: consuming alcohol did not bother my conscience at all, I was simply trying to be consistent with the church body I was a part of.

So here is the question:

Was I wrong to abstain from sharing a beer with this guy?

Or

Was I right to abstain?

What should I have done?  Have at it…

Often, when it comes to the issue of alcohol, it is only a matter of time before the inevitable point gets made of giving preference to the “weaker brother.” People pull this principle out as a trump card as if it settles the issue once and for all, but some serious thought needs to be given to the idea of the “weaker brother” and how it is that we are to interact with such a one.

First, it is worth noting that the whole principle behind the weaker brother is the issue of maturity. The weaker brother is one who in a specific area of life is by admission weak, lacking, or somehow deficient. Somehow, modern North American Christendom (yes, this is primarily a cultural issue) has allowed this to become the default position. But wait just a minute. Are we really okay with allowing those who are by their own admission weak, deficient, and by extension somewhat immature to maintain such a status? Should we not desire that these people grow in their maturity so they may be strengthened in the area of deficiency?

Paul certainly seemed to be concerned with presenting every man complete in Christ (Colossians 1:28). The text seems pretty clear about how Paul and his entourage were accomplishing this task. The goal for Paul’s ministry was that everyone under his ministry would stand before Christ not lacking anything (having no weakness). The means Paul used to accomplish this are also clearly stated in Colossians 1:28: first by preaching Christ, and also by teaching and correcting those who are in error. An additional means by which we can address areas of deficiency would be to follow and imitate those who are mature. All of these things only happen in the context of relationships where believers are actually walking with each other and living life with each other so they can share one another’s burdens. When it comes to areas of weakness it should be noted that we all have areas of weakness and deficiency. The goal, however, is to grow in maturity and strengthen the areas in our lives that are lacking. The goal is never to stay in a state of immaturity!

Please understand, I am not claiming that maturity is equated with exercising liberties. I absolutely believe that some people should abstain from certain liberties even though the Bible may grant them freedom to participate. In some cases, a past circumstance or struggle with temptation/sin may prevent someone from partaking in a certain activity. I do not think such a person is weak or immature at all; in fact, I think this person could be very wise and incredibly mature.

To go back to the example of alcohol, the point is not to get everyone in the church drinking. All I am suggesting is that the “weaker brother” argument is sometimes used as a trump card. In other words, no one in the church is allowed to use their biblically granted freedom to drink alcohol because someone in the church is offended by it. Let’s certainly be sensitive to these weaker brothers, but let’s also help them mature in their understanding. If they believe that drinking is a sin—even though the Bible does not portray it as a sin—then let’s be careful not to offend them, but let’s also teach them what the Bible says about such matters and help them develop a Christian response to the issue.

Across the board, when we see someone weak, ignorant, or struggling in some area our goal is to help them grow. Why should it be any different with the “weaker brother”?

As many of you are well aware, Christmas is a time of conflicting emotion. I get super excited as I think through Jesus’ incarnation and the implications of that wonderful event. I also get incredibly frustrated at the gross consumerism demonstrated by such a majority of society. So in light of the season, here is the question:

Which of these is most appropriate?

To graciously decline any gift offered to you (you certainly have plenty) or as an alternative, suggest that friends and family make a donation of what ever amount they would have spent on a gift to a charitable cause?

Or

Accepting the generosity of others and allowing gifts to be bestowed upon you. Knowing that you do not need them, but allowing others to bless you and give you something you do not deserve?

Which is best? Have at it…

Happy Birthday Dear Jesus?

Spencer MacCuish —  December 12, 2011 — 1 Comment

A few years ago I was attending a Christmas celebration, family and friends were having a wonderful time of enjoying each other’s company (a rarity for many Christmas celebrations) when all of sudden something in the other room caught my eye. I slowly began working my way towards the object of my curiosity. Stepping over toys and dodging children I finally navigated my way across the house. And there it was, the item of intrigue. I finally realized what it was, and it caused a deep seated response …”OH, NO WE ARE NOT!” (To this day I cannot tell if it was audible or just an internal lament.) You see, what was lying before me was a nicely decorated cake with the inscription: Happy Birthday Jesus. I was immediately dismissive and critical of such an idea. I was thinking: how in the world does this bring any honor to Jesus when it is so incredibly cheesy? The bile was slowly creeping up my esophageal tract as I stood in judgment of the anticipated events. And then, it happened, the host emerged and called all in attendance to the dining room. When the final stragglers finally arrived the singing began:

Happy birthday to you,
Happy birthday to you,
Happy birthday, dear Jesus,
Happy birthday to you.

As the cake was being consumed, one of the children approached the host and asked a very insightful and very appropriate question which silenced and shamed my unjustified criticism, the exchange went something like this:

The child asked: “Why did we sing happy birthday to Jesus?”

The host replied: “Because that is why we celebrate Christmas…it is a celebration of Jesus being born.”

Child: “Really?”

Host: “Yes, really. Jesus, who is God, came to earth as a human…and Christmas is a good time to remember that.”

Child: “Oh, I never knew that.”

Needless to say I was shocked. Did that really just happen? Did God just use us singing happy birthday to Jesus as a means of creating gospel opportunity? Indeed, he did!

So now, years later, I reflect back upon this even and I am encouraged. I love that the host of the party was trying to be relevant to the people who were in attendance. I love that they tried to communicate as effectively and as accurately they could the reality of the story of Jesus’ birth, using traditions that were familiar to the intended audience. I learned two important things that day: (1) I learned that I needed to repent from my judgmental arrogant heart. (2) I learned that we should be creative with the opportunities our culture provides to have gospel opportunities.

So this is the faculty blog at EBC. That being said, let me just state the obvious, we are all teachers. So this question actually comes out our own life experience here at EBC.

Here is a little peek behind the curtain that is education (I will occasionally pull the curtain back on aspects of education, I am sure you will be intrigued with what you find): As an educator I can walk into a classroom of students and through (1) asking them a series of questions, (2) subsequently responding to their questions, and then (3) asking a different series of questions, actually have students arrive at the conclusions I was hoping for. All the while, they feel like they have actually arrived at these conclusions on their own. So here is the question:

Is that just good teaching?

Or

Is that incredible manipulation?

Yes folks that’s it, that is all I’ve got. What is the difference between teaching and manipulation? Have at it.