Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Fat, drunk, and stupid is no way to go through life, son.

I came across this question about a month ago:
"Which would you rather have in your church, legalists or alcoholics?"

For discussion purposes, I'm defining legalist in the following manner:
"A legalist [in the realm of the biblical Christian] is one who elevates human rules/laws to the point where they are equated to or trump God's laws, considering violation of those human precepts to be sinful when done by others."
In other words, it's calling something sin that the Bible does not, particularly in the lives of others. I have no problem, for example, with a person making a rule for himself/herself to help prevent sin, but it becomes legalism when others are held to that rule as well. For example, it may be wise to say, "To avoid being drunk, I will never drink."

That being said, we return to the original question:
"Which would you rather have in your church, legalists or alcoholics?"

There's no doubt in my mind. I would rather have alcoholics in my church and for the following reasons:
  1. Alcoholics tend to know their struggles, knowing drunkeness to be sinful. Legalists not only don't see their legalism as sinful behavior, but they actually see it as righteous. They take pride in their ability to perform according to those human standards, creating a pride and arrogance that are hard to combat.
  2. Alcoholics tend to know what it's like to struggle with sin and they are more compassionate and encouraging to others in the church who struggle with sin. The legalists tend to be the least compassionate and encouraging people you'll meet in church, loving you only when you're meeting their standards of behavior.

As you probably assume, I do not regard the consumption of alcohol as sinful in and of itself, whether it be in a cough medicine, vinegar, or beverage alcohol. However, I am convinced the Bible condemns drunkenness.

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At 14 July, 2009 06:59, Blogger Lance said...

Good question and good fodder. Eager to see the comments . . .

At 14 July, 2009 08:04, Blogger samurai said...

Well stated Gunny. I think i will be watching to see the comments as well...

At 14 July, 2009 08:15, Anonymous Chris said...

It's early in the day, so I still have a fair amount of energy. I posted a response over at my place.

See http://www.chrisbrauns.com/2009/07/14/gunny-explains-why-he-would-rather-have-alcoholics-in-his-church-than-legalists/

An excerpt:

"If your goal in life is for your children to despise Christianity and to pursue immorality, then I can think of no more effective strategy than legalism."

At 14 July, 2009 08:48, Blogger Jared Nelson said...

I think your answer is right. It seems the people Jesus "gave up on" were not the outcasts and sinners but the people who thought they had it all together, were not sinners, could earn their way to God through the Law and prayed to God thanking Him they were not like sinners, namely the Pharisees.

The man merely pounding on his chest crying "Have mercy on me, a sinner!" is much better off.

At 14 July, 2009 15:38, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gunny, I'm glad your reasoning is NOT that "alcoholics are more fun". Sure, we would rather have Flounder in our church than Neidermeyer, but we don't want Animal House Baptist Church. Let's just have recovering alcoholics only. Toga denied.


At 15 July, 2009 19:36, Blogger Young Wife said...

Very interesting question. If you know anyone struggling with alcoholism, you know they'd really appreciate your answer, because you never stop being an alcoholic. It's always a struggle. You could always go back to your old ways. So, I'm glad you picked alcoholics!

At 16 July, 2009 21:19, Blogger Jade said...

And a legalist is never too eager to hear from you oppose to his/her views...

I'm curious, what brought about this question?

At 18 July, 2009 23:04, Blogger GUNNY said...

I'm posting on behalf of one who had difficulty with the security slooge ...

Gunny, I tried to post this on your blog, but could not “see” the word validation..just a bunch of little red “x”s. Thought I’d pass it along. Feel free to post some, all, or none of this on your blog, either with or without my name.

Speaking as a minister, it is probably easier to have a flock of legalists than alcoholics. They are easier to control. The pews and the collection plate are full. You’re unlikely to get emergency calls at 3:00 AM. You are less likely to bury one before his 3 score and ten.

I think Jesus Christ preferred the drunks to the legalists. I’d even go you one further: I think Christ preferred the drunks to the Pharisees, who elevated God’s laws to the exclusion of all else. The Gospels are full of Christ’s sayings, “Lest he who is without sin…” “Be not like the hypocrites…” “Lay not for yourself treasures upon the Earth…” “Remove the plank from your eye before the mote of dust from your neighbor’s…” “They will be first who are last…” the woman at the well, or the Sermon on the Mount, where Christ makes the case that even those who scrupulously obey every word Moses ever spoke are still wholly damned.

But I think one story, more than any other, illustrates the point: Matthew 9:20-22. A woman, who suffered from hemorrhages, was healed by Christ through her faith. To put this into perspective: The Ancient Israelites recoiled from blood the way we would recoil from a rotten-toothed Meth freak. Orthodox Jewish men, to this day, will not embrace their menstruating wives or for a period (no pun intended) of seven days after it ends…after she has performed a ritual purification. The Bible states that this woman had suffered for twelve years. – she had been forbidden to participate in religious rituals or in the life of her community because they thought she was unclean. Further, just as many of us think that an alcoholic has some sort of character defect, the woman’s neighbors thought she’d brought this horror upon herself by some unspeakable abomination.

What did she expect, when, in her desperation and faith, she touched the hem of this Man’s garment? Had Christ been a Pharisee (the holiest men she knew), and had he known what her malady was, he probably would have recoiled in horror. Horror would beget rage, and the woman likely would have been killed by the crowd, furious that this filthy woman would dare to defile their prophet, their teacher.

But Christ saw her desperation. He healed her with a softly spoken word...probably no one else in the crowd heard it. But she knew. He knew. She was again a holy child of God. This is why I believe Christ loves the worst among us more than the best. The best among us don’t need Him. The worst among us have nothing else to offer.

Holmes Gwin III


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