This Sunday, I have the privilege of making one of the last societal rites of passage into adulthood. I’m turning 21. With that, of course, comes the legal right to purchase and consume alcohol.
Sex, drugs and alcohol are all bad, right? At least that’s what you’d expect any Jesus freak to say. That’s actually quite the opposite of what I’m going to say, however.
God created the world and He declared it good. Every part of Creation has found its source in God, and this makes it very, very good (Genesis 1).
What is not good is how we use it. We are the stewards of Creation and Creation was made for us to enjoy just as God delights in His people and His handiwork. With that comes responsibility.
Sex, drugs and alcohol are all very good things when used in the right context. What I mean by that is that they are good when they are used in the manner in which they were intended.
Sex is very good when it is both unitive and procreative and shared between a husband and a wife as it was intended to be. This bonds a man and a woman so intimately that the Church has called the conjugal embrace the closest we can get to understanding the sensory goodness of Heaven while still living here on earth. It is also life-giving, which is so beautiful. It is creative!
Sex is not very good when it results in broken hearts, damaged relationships, diseases, or premature pregnancies and subsequent abortions. Sex is not very good when a man and woman are not giving themselves fully to each other; when it is not a total gift of self; when it is selfish. These consequences factor in only when we condone promiscuity, wrong conceptions of love, or a divorce of the two underlying purposes of sex as established by God and evident in our very being. These are consequences that were never meant to be associated with such a beautiful gift.
In the same way, drugs are good when they cure us or alleviate physical suffering, but bad when we use them dangerously, illicitly, or as a substitute for addressing our underlying physical, emotional or psychological problems.
That leaves alcohol. Alcohol is not bad! Jesus turned water into wine because it would have been a total bummer for them to only serve water at the wedding feast!
Sharing a beer with friends or having a glass of wine with dinner cannot be called a bad thing. In fact, this form of sharing fellowship or enjoying life in a way that offers us a foretaste of Heaven is very, very good.
As St. Paul and the Church have taught us, though, drunkenness is not very good at all. In fact, the Church teaches us that it is a sin to overindulge in anything, but in alcoholic beverages in particular. Here, we refer to the historic meaning of the word “sin” which is “to miss,” so it’s not to say that we are terrible people should we have one drink to many but that we have missed the mark or fallen short.
Balance, health and moderation—these are all things both Jesus and the Church desire for us. That means we do not cling to one extreme or the other, but rather to Jesus. We enjoy Creation, but, most of all, the One who made it.
In John 10:10, Jesus declares: “I have come so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.”
That is fundamentally what the Church is about. She does not exist to burden us with rules; She exists to spread life wherever she goes. She lives to rain true freedom upon Her people—to help them navigate life in this strange place and keep them constantly looking upward to their heavenly home.
Indeed, we see this theme continued in St. Paul’s instructions to the people of Galatia. Namely, “For freedom Christ set us free; so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1).
That is the yoke of heartache. That is the yoke of addictions. That is the yoke of the hurt we cause to others. True freedom comes in living as we were meant to live, in not sinning, in not missing the mark. Or at least this is what we’re striving after.
In John 10:11, Jesus continues: “I am the good shepherd.” Jesus is the good shepherd.
Adam and Eve’s sin was not submitting to God. Instead of enjoying Creation the way He intended them to, they made an idol out of the fruit. They made themselves their own gods. And for this they experienced death.
I’m having a drink this Sunday, but I won’t be doing it my way or the world’s way. I’m going to savor the opportunity to taste some awesome local craft beer over dinner with my girlfriend, I’m going to have a blast being a ridiculous goofball with her, and I’m not going to get drunk. Instead I’ll enjoy the goodness and freedom of doing it God’s way.
Sunday is one day, but I have this decision every day, and so do you. Jesus is the good shepherd. Will we allow ourselves to be shepherded by Him, or will we again submit to the yoke of slavery?