“And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit” Eph 5:18
“Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge.” James 4:11
“As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear.” 1 Timothy 5:20
How do we reconcile all these verses? Don’t get drunk… don’t speak evil against one another… don’t judge… rebuke the persistent sinner in public. So, judging others is speaking evil, and getting drunk is wrong, so we should publicly rebuke the persistent drunk person. But if we judge the drunk person, we should, in theory, be the one who should be getting rebuked in public because we are judging them.
Here’s the problem: there is more to the Gospel than these three verses. Here is my response to the issue of drunkenness:
I have found a person who engages in occasional drunkenness is far less damaging than the one who views himself more highly than he ought. It’s the speck and the plank situation (Luke 6:42). This is not about being gracious with sinners (we are all sinners), it’s about recognizing that condemnation of other peoples actions is hypocritical. When someone condemns another persons actions, he is likely comparing the other person’s righteousness with the self-perception he has of his own righteousness based on obedience to the law (James 4:11), which is a terrible mistake. The reason we are told not to judge is because we have a tendency to make the judgment based on human expectations, namely our own.
I am preaching to myself as much as anyone else. I have formerly been the condemned drunk person and I continue to find myself being the proud, condemning person. What would have helped me best when I was found drunk by my closest friends, is if they would have expressed genuine concern for my lifestyle in a way that was not condemning: a private conversation about how a lifestyle of drunkenness does not reflect a heart who’s treasure is Christ and who’s goal is the glorification of the Father.
Even in our rebuke of others, if it should ever come to that, we should be glorifying God. That is why it’s best for the rebuke to happen with 2 or 3 other godly people, preferably elders of the church. Getting drunk is not a minor issue, but our own condemnation of the drunkard is far worse.
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