Life 201 is a weekly advice column headed by pastor, counselor and RELEVANT Podcast member Eddie Kaufholz. Eddie answers questions and gives advice on issues you want to hear about. Email your questions to Life201@RELEVANTmagazine.com.
Irish greetings to you, my greenly adorned friends! My grandfather was Scottish, so I’m not participating in this blasphemous charade, but you are, so happy St. Paddy’s day! Let’s, not at all coincidentally, kick off our time with a question about getting drunk …
Eddie, what are your thoughts on Christian’s drinking? For special events (weddings, holidays) I like to live it up a bit. Is that OK?
Ray, can I call you Ray? It is not for me to say if you can or can’t have a drink.
You see, everything is a stumbling block for someone. Alcohol, food, sex, academia, Facebook, relationships—really everything—can either be edifying or can be the demise of someone. As a general and long-winded rule, if alcohol is not going to be a slippery slope to a more destructive set of behaviors AND it’s not causing others around you to struggle with their own issues with alcohol, I don’t see an issue with appreciating a drink. But, if alcohol is in any way being used to accomplish some feeling of release in you, then we’ve got a problem.
So Ray, do you need alcohol to “live it up a bit”? Do you need that warm feeling in your face to muster up the courage to be funnier, dance more, stop thinking about work or go to bed at night? If you’re answering yes, then I’d abstain and give some thought to the purpose behind the consumption. If you’re reading this and thinking I’m being way too serious and you were just asking if you could have a cheap domestic beer or two at a wedding, I’d say opt for the import at the cash bar and tip the bartender.
One more thing. No, you can’t get drunk. Proverbs 23:29-35 (The Message version is amazing), Proverbs 20:1, Ephesians 5:18, and dozens of other passages warn against letting alcohol take over the control center of your body. It’s a good idea to keep God in that drivers seat.
If you’re dating someone, you’re both in love and you know that you’ll get married for sure, is it still bad to continue to have sex? I know it’s a sin, and that people say you’ll have problems in your marriage. But I know a lot of people that have done so before they were married and they have a great marriage.
Donna, you just asked a direct question that countless others haven’t had the courage to ask. Thank you.
Now, if you’ll permit me, I’d like to give you an equally direct answer:
Firstly, you’re right, it’s a sinful pattern. However, stuff that’s sinful can also be really intoxicating, which makes us lying to ourselves or lying to others just to get more such a universal struggle. Nobody reading this isn’t reconciling and battling sin in some way. We all have a pile of stones we’re not throwing.
Secondly, you’re right, many married people who’ve had sex before nuptials are in great, God-honoring marriages. But, I’m going to challenge this idea with another statement: Many happy and God honoring marriages have weathered affairs during the dating period, but are now OK.
Here’s the point: You wouldn’t ask me if you can have an affair because a lot of other stiller marriages had affairs in their history, right? Of course you wouldn’t. Just because the relationship can make it through adverse situations, doesn’t mean that you should intentionally seek out those situations. The argument doesn’t hold water.
Thirdly, the blessing of sex is that God has designed us in a way that through the joining of our bodies, we also join emotionally and spiritually. It really is a cool design. Conversely, it’s also a really dangerous situation outside of the confines of a marriage. Here’s why:
On the altar, you’ll stand before God and your community and promise that you’re all in. Then, after an absurdly long reception and excruciatingly slow limo ride, you’ll experience a physical manifestation of the covenant bond that you just entered into during the ceremony. So, when you reverse the order and join physically, emotionally and spiritually before you’ve committed to those things on the altar, you’re reading the last page of the book without knowing how you got there.
Donna, I don’t want you to know the last page. I want you to be fully open to what God is doing in the lives of you and Mr. Donna and I want the story to unfold in a series of events that allows you to always be clear that, for no other reason, God is bringing you together at the alter. If you’re having sex, it feels a lot like God is leading you to marriage (and He may be), but it’s not as clear, and it’s mixed in with a lot of other emotions and complications, which you don’t need.
Finally, the decision to stop having sex is really difficult one. And the temptation will be to tell yourself that because you’ve already put the cart before the horse, there’s no reason to try and reverse things now. This is a lie. Doing things that are difficult, for the betterment of your marriage, is something that will be a part of your whole life. If you and Mr. Donna commit to not having sex—and then you don’t—imagine how much stronger you’ll be in 10 years when you all are faced with another challenge. Because of the decision you make now, you’ll have a deeper knowledge that you can: a) keep your word to each other and b) keep your word to God, even when it’s tough.
Donna, the fortitude you show now will echo in your marriage, and the obedience you display before your wedding will make what happens on the altar (and afterwords) so much more meaningful. Good luck.
And with that, I bid you farewell. Thank you for reading and being awesome.
Have a question? Good! All identifying information will be kept anonymous. Send an email to Life201@RELEVANTmagazine.com
Eddie Kaufholz is a writer, speaker and podcaster and serves as a director of church mobilization for International Justice Mission. He also hosts and produces "The New Activist" podcast. You can find on Twitter @EdwardorEddie.