Occasionally I’ll get an email from someone asking me to address a particular topic on my blog and recently I received this question:
“What to do when you’re invited to a gathering you know alcohol will be served at?”
The person who asked this question doesn’t drink alcohol and is feeling the tension of wanting to reach out to people but not wanting to be around the alcohol. The particular event this person is talking about is not a wild & crazy party but a simple gathering of adults and some of them drink. So your basic adult gathering with alcohol being served.
This is a very personal issue and I can’t answer for anyone but myself but maybe I can give some food for thought based on personal experience and observations from scripture.
We actually experienced this exact scenario recently. We were invited to a cocktail party for a new neighbor. New gay neighbors. We don’t drink. And we don’t condone homosexual lifestyles. But we want to love our neighbors well and it starts by getting to know them. So we went. Most everyone drank but us. Was it awkward? No, it really wasn’t. We didn’t make a big deal out of it and neither did they. They asked if we wanted something to drink and we declined. That simple.
We’ve been to a few other neighborhood type events where alcohol was served and we were the only ones not drinking. The first time it was a bit awkward for us just because we felt kind of out of place but walking home that night it just felt right. I can’t explain it other than we knew we were doing what Jesus would do – he would totally spend time with his neighbors. Right where they were. In their homes.
In order to be a light in our world, in our communities and in our neighborhoods we have to get on other people’s turf. And their turf isn’t going to always look like ours. And that’s okay. It will involve being uncomfortable sometimes. That’s also okay.
At first you might feel like you have to defend yourself and explain yourself – for instance, “No, I wouldn’t care for anything to drink because………” But you don’t have to do that. Don’t make a deal out of it. If someone asks you why you don’t drink that’s one thing. Everyone has their right to drink or not to drink. If they ask, tell them why but try not to get into a debate about it. This isn’t your chance to turn people away from drinking. It’s your chance as a Christian to love people where they are. And that starts by simply getting to know them. Even when they have a drink in their hand. And it’s important to remember nobody is “better” or “more free in Christ” because they do or don’t drink.
The other thing you might be worrying about is what other people will think if you attend a party with alcohol. What if someone sees you there or finds out you went and they don’t know you didn’t have a drink. What if you’re at the company party where there’s a lot of drinking and someone see you there and your testimony is ruined.
When we feel the need to put disclaimers out when coming along side people it tells us we’re more concerned with what other people think about us, our image, and our reputation instead of loving people right where they are. If we’re concerned about what other people think of us then we’re missing the point of reaching out.
I used to walk in fear of what others would think when they saw me with a neighbor who was having a glass of wine while we ate lunch in a public place. But it didn’t take long for me to shed that fear when I heard stories of women just like me in need of a Savior. They poured their hearts out and felt comfortable being themselves. Some of these women would later come to know Christ and some of them didn’t. One woman sat in our living room and cussed confidently in the middle of Bible study because she just didn’t know any better. A few months later on her self made prayer list was “help me not to cuss.” Had anyone asked her to stop? Yes. But it’s not what you think. It wasn’t me. And it wasn’t the ladies in our Bible study. But the Holy Spirit put that on her heart as she grew in her new walk with Jesus. And that stuff really happens when we simply love people the way Jesus loved. And it’s beautiful. Messy sometimes but really beautiful.
When we look at Jesus in the Bible we will see that he didn’t care what other people thought about his testimony. If he did he wouldn’t have shown compassion towards prostitutes. He would have avoided the tax collectors house instead of partying there. We don’t even see him explaining himself to his disciples or religious leaders in these situations. It was through and through love for these people.
And if we can remember that we are “these people” then loving others in this way will come easier. You might not have had 5 husbands but the sin you were born into is the sin that Jesus died for out of his love for you. We all have the same universal problem – sin. And we all have access to the One who can redeem us from this problem. But some people don’t know this. Some of your neighbors haven’t heard. And how will they know unless we tell them? Are we seriously going to wait until they “stop drinking” or “start looking like us”? I pray not.
So I would say to the Christian adult who doesn’t drink to still go to the party where alcohol is served. Go with the purpose of getting to know people who may not know the Good News. And by all means look for opportunities to love your neighbor well. They’re just like you – in need of the love of Jesus Christ.
Have a question or topic you’d like to see addressed on LIABOW? Shoot me an email. I don’t claim to have all the answers but I’ll share what I’ve learned if I’ve learned anything at all.