A Question About Separation?


I have a question that is very important to me, and hopefully will be of use to guys who have not faced this issue yet.
I am in a quandary about an issue that I am in the middle of, even as I type this post...

My family travels to another state once a year to attend our family reunion. The majority of my extended family is unsaved, and usually there is alcohol at the function. (Different families bring whatever they want to bring to drink.) We believe that it is wrong for us to drink alcohol, and my 3-year old is at the cross roads of the "WHY?WHY?WHY?WHY?" stage and the "Imitation" stage. My wife and I have been discussing how to handle this on an ongoing basis, and settled upon the decision to just teach Abby that we believe that alcohol is wrong.

However, over the past 3 years, we have experienced an erosion of my own parent's beliefs in this area. Upon arriving at their home yesterday, I noticed a 6-pack of beer in their fridge. I feel like this is a different issue, being that it is now in a "home" setting, and even more of a problem--I believe that my parent's (Abby's grandparents) have more potential to influence her that the extended family does over a 2 1/2 day "reunion".

To help clarify a few things...both my parents strongly believed that alcohol was wrong (along with gambling, certain movies rated at a certain level, etc.). I am now finding that they no longer have a problem with social drinking (which they practice). They now no longer have a problem with gambling (as long as you set a limit before you go in, its just the same as other entertainment <- their reasoning). My mother and I do not get along very well (We are both very hard-headed), and I know by simply bringing it up, it will cause an argument.

I once heard a Fundamental Baptist Bible Conference speaker give this challenge.... "We have become to isolated from the world to impact the world. Instead of becoming more and more isolated from the world, we need to become more and more insulated with the Word."

I struggle with the fact that my daughter only sees my parents (her grandparents) twice a year as it is. I do not want her to miss getting to know them at all. I also struggle with the fact that I was around adults who drank when I was growing up, and it didn't seem to impact me because of my parent's strong belief that it wrong (or at least because they raised me in a church that taught it was), so I'm wondering if it is enough for my wife and I just to teach Abby that this is a sinful behavior, and while we love grandma and grandpa, and our aunts and uncles, we know that what they are doing is not right.
or...do I demand that my parents not drink in front of their granddaughter. Do I separate from my family reunion? How can I hope to be a positive witness if I just simply separate? Rather, am I setting an inconsistent example before my daughter if I don't?

I surely don't want this to become a theological discourse on the use of alcohol in the Bible...I would just like to know what you would do / have done in the same situations, and what you think the Lord would have me to do? Thanks.

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ChrisC's picture

pastorwesh wrote:
We believe that it is wrong for us to drink alcohol, and my 3-year old is at the cross roads of the "WHY?WHY?WHY?WHY?" stage and the "Imitation" stage.
i'm confused about why you think your 3-year-old is going to be offered a chance to imitate drinking anything alcoholic or why you think this is such a difficult question to answer. just give her a glass of water or juice or whatever, and let her drink that. if she wants to try grandpa's just insist that it's grandpa's. you're drinking only from your own glass and she should too. let her imitate that. i would keep the answers very simple and on the level of being content with what she's drinking instead of trying to explain anything about alcohol to a 3-year-old.

BryanBice's picture

Hold to your convictions, and teach them to your daughter as the opportunity or need arises. Yes, she'll eventually see a contradiction between your convictions and her grandparents, but guess what. She'll also someday see a contradiction between your convictions and her Christian friends'. If you want her to develop your convictions as her own, she's going to have to work through these contradictions and come to personal conclusions.

Don't make a fuss about the issue with your parents, except to remind them that, "By the way, I see you've changed your views on drinking alcohol; but just so you know, we haven't, so obviously we'll be teaching ____ that drinking alcohol is wrong." Of course, if they try to undermine your parental authority with your daughter at any point along the child-rearing journey, that's another story. Don't separate from the family reunions, either. If you do, someday you'll likely be sorry for 1) being too isolationist, and 2) giving up precious time with your family.

Along the lines of pastorwesh's concerns, I would HIGHLY recommend the book Why Christian Kids Leave the Faith by Tom Bisset, especially for parents with children still at home. I wish I had some of the insights when I wrestled with these concerns when my children were much younger. There are a bunch of things I would've done differently.

Jay's picture

I would go ahead and go, and I wouldn't even bring it up. You may be convinced that it's wrong, but pointing out the problems with drinking to whomever might hinder your ability to minister and witness to the unsaved there. Sinners are going to sin, whether we want them to or not...hey, even the saved sin.

As for your parents, I think I'd just leave it alone as well unless they bring it up. If you get the opportunity and they're ready to listen, I might say something, but only if the timing is right and you really feel lead by the Spirit to do so.

That's my position. Since I'm not a total-abstinence guy (although I personally don't drink at all), that may or may not be helpful.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Jim's picture

I think that 1 Corinthians 5:9-11 applies

We have unsaved family members on both sides. We go to family reunions where beer is on tap, etc. I don't see the big deal. Just go and be with people. They are your relatives. You are Christ's ambassador!

We also have Christian family members who drink in moderation. I respect their liberty.

rogercarlson's picture


I have to interact the same way. I agree with what others have said. I firmly believe alchohol is a sin. But I go to those family parties because of the opportunites for the Gospel and to be with my family. As far as your parents, I think you can find a way to express disagreement but then drop it. I don't believe you can tell them what to do in their home nor ask them not to when you are there. The only exception would be to ask them not when and if your children spend the night when you are not there. But I personally would not do that. My kids have had to be exposed to these things on many different levels and we deal with these sin issues constantly. We make it clear that we are not condoning the sin but we are still being with sinners who are acting like sinners; knowing that without God's grace we would be worse.

Roger Carlson, Pastor
Berean Baptist Church

Jay's picture

Jim was wise to bring us all back to Scripture. Here are some more verses for consideration:

2 Corinthians 5 wrote:
16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Susan R's picture


I'm not a gentleman or ministry leader, but I can speak about what my husband did about this, because he has had to handle such a situation with his parents and our children. Our concern was not so much their behavior- what they drank or watched or participated in on their own time- but whether or not they were respectful of our parenting choices and how they interacted with our children. When they contradicted or showed disdain for our beliefs in front of or to our kids, that caused a major rift, and we did separate from them- but it was because of their attitude about our beliefs and not necessarily their own beliefs. We realized we could not trust them to be around our kids unsupervised.

We've been able to address this issue and reconcile with them, thank God. But I just wanted to share our experience with you in case it might give you another angle on the subject.

FredK's picture

I agree with Jim Peet and Jay. I tot. abstain and teach my students to abstain. I ask Q as: Would it be OK with U if your pastor preached with alcohol on his breath? (They are appalled!). Why not I ask? (they expect a higher std). OK, so what will the world call ANY believer who drinks?

Or, have U ever heard a convincing testimony of salvation from a believer at a drinking party with a glass in his hand and alcohol on his breath? Then I ask, what do they call some one like that?

Yet we are under grace. A social drink will not steal one's salvation but can harm/destroy his testimony before a watching world. In Bible school we were advised on the grey areas - better to err on the side of being too conservative than go too far the other way.

Tammy W's picture

Most of my extended family is not saved. Most drink, some smoke and many use foul language. They all know me. They know what I believe, and more importantly, they know how I live. I've talked to my children - now 5 and 7 - for a couple years now about WHY we don't do those things. But I would not disassociate with my family for their actions.

If I'm supposed to be salt and light, how can I do that if I'm absent? I totally believe that protecting my children is paramount, but Jesus said the world will know I'm a Christian by my love - not my standards. Smile