I appreciate all of the spirit, and much of the substance, of Ed’s work on this topic yesterday. It’s just reality that even in historically total-abstaining circles, ministry leaders are going to be working with Christians who believe Scripture allows them to consume alcohol. That being the case, we should do more to help these believers exercise wisdom and restraint—or to recover, if they’ve stumbled into problems with drunkenness.
For those of us (including me) who are persuaded that total abstinence is the right course, there’s some temptation to think “Well, just don’t drink—and if you do, the consequences are your problem.” But where’s the ministry heart in that? I’m reminded of Matthew 12:20. Our Lord was not in the habit of breaking bruised reeds or quenching smoldering wicks. The spiritual thing to do is “restore … in a spirit of gentleness” (Gal. 6:1), “encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all” (1 Thes. 5:14).
Today I am going to take a stab at applying convictions and preferences to the subject of drinking. Let’s begin with convictions.
A conviction is a belief or value we embrace as a crucial part of what we stand for and who we are. It is very different from a preference—or merely assenting to a belief or value.
For the believer, there are two levels of conviction. The first level—the deepest level—involves biblical conviction, although some deep convictions may extend beyond the Bible (e.g., a soldier surrendering his life for our country’s freedom). Our biblical convictions should be first and foremost. Where the Bible is emphatic, we must be clear and take a firm stand. This does not mean we must demand others to take that stand, but we certainly must urge fellow believers to follow what the Word actually says. This is not necessarily what we think it says, but what it actually says.
The difference between a biblical conviction and a preference is that we would suffer loss rather than disavow our biblical convictions. It may mean we lose a job, flunk a class, or be ostracized. In some nations, it means imprisonment or even death.