Still another legalistic group is the teetotaler crowd, the behavior perfectionists who fall back on works done within their control and guided by the terms that they set instead of works led by God’s Spirit and imbued with His power. There’s a humorous adage that I heard often when I was growing up: “Don’t smoke, dip, or chew, and don’t date the girls that do.” In this old saying, the focus is on the outward appearance, on the behaviors in which others may see you as a participant. But God looks at morality very differently than the world does. There are many habits or behaviors that you may indulge in that are not specifically prohibited in the Bible unless your participation in them causes harm to your body, harm to others, discouragement to others, or unless God has already confronted you about the habit. Sometimes there are things that are fine for everyone else, but God confronts us about them because they have become a problem in our lives or our walk with Him. So, you can’t always judge by one Christian to determine what is right for all Christians. The flip side of this is that there are behaviors that God may allow in you but not in others. Again, so long as the behavior is not specifically prohibited in the Bible, does not bring harm to others or to your witness to others, and so long as you have confessed the behavior to God and gotten guidance from him about the behavior.
I do not mean to disparage all rules here. There is a time and a place for rules. They may set boundaries of behavior that keep us safe and holy. But the rules are just guidelines that are supposed to drive you to the deeper truths underlying the rules. One privilege enjoyed by many adults but constantly attacked by legalists is alcohol. Alcohol is not expressly forbidden in the Bible. Drinking to excess is discouraged, of course, and overindulging in alcohol, then abusing others or engaging in activity that is illegal would obviously be wrong. There is a time and place for alcohol used in moderation. It may even be a tool to help you in times of sorrow. I do not subscribe to the legalistic argument that you shouldn’t indulge in alcohol at all and that it only gives you a temporary escape such that your sorrows will return in the morning. Sometimes that’s specifically what you need, a momentary escape to be able to bear deep periods of sorrow. I know that many soldiers returning from war have indescribable horrors that they relive in their daily lives and their dreams at night. Sometimes, alcohol is an escape to them, giving momentary relief from the constant stress of their PTSD. Sure there are many medications, but the efficacy of medication depends on the skill and wisdom of the doctor prescribing. There are still way too few psychiatrists that are competent and that understand PTSD as I’ve found from my own experience. And many of them are too full of themselves to be very helpful if you have persistent problems like severe PTSD as I have had. Additionally, there are very few drugs that are of much help with PTSD in my experience. It is not just the depression and the re-experiencing that are the problem. It is also the adrenaline storms that keep you on edge, unable to sleep properly, and unable to relax for days on end. Working with numerous psychiatrists, I have yet to find a drug that helps very much with the adrenaline except for alcohol.
We finish on this topic tomorrow.