NOTES FOR CHRISTIAN YOUTH WORKERS If you are taking a session about alcohol and/or other drugs for a Christian group, you may find the following notes helpful, in addition to the other material contained on this website. What does the Bible say about using drugs? There are 250 references to wine or strong drink in the Bible (www.blueletterbible.org) but none to other drugs (which were not available in the way that they are today). Generally, Christians agree to obey the law, although legal codes differ from country to country. However, obeying the law is only one issue to be considered. Two general principles can be identified which will help us judge whether we should use or condone the use of drugs: care for ourselves and caring for others. Caring for our own bodies Will a substance damage our bodies? Will it cut us off from God? Christians are encouraged to be filled with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18). Is this consistent with using any drug which affects the mind? At Pentecost (Acts 2), the disciples were completely filled with the Holy Spirit and in control. Drugs lessen control and alter the mind’s functioning. Christian teaching is completely clear about the need to stay as fit and healthy as possible so that we can serve God effectively. How we do this is left as a matter of personal choice. Caring for others Christian teaching is also clear about the important role of personal example. Even though Jesus has set us free, Paul qualifies this by saying “Do not cause anyone to stumble… For I am not seeking my own good, but the good of many, so that they may be saved.” (read 1 Corinthians 10:23 – 11:1). It is a clear Biblical principle that what we are influences others… but the responsibility of choosing what we do remains ours. Should Christians drink? If you want an easy way to divide your Youth Group, then try saying ‘No’ to this without qualification or explanation. Drinking alcohol seems to be one of those issues which is and will continue to be controversial. The 250 or more Biblical references and Christian tradition have not provided a clear answer. The following brief comments are intended to stimulate thought: 1. There is no eleventh commandment saying ‘Thou shalt not drink alcohol’. However, there are strong statements about not getting drunk (Proverbs 20:1; 23:29-35; Ephesians 5:18; 1 Peter 4). 2. There are examples of the use of alcohol in the Bible. Jesus wined and dined with sinners (Matthew 11:19); Paul advised Timothy to drink a little wine (1 Timothy 5:23); Jesus turned water into wine (John 2:1-11); and Psalm 104:15 mentions “wine that gladdens the heart of man”. BUT, to accept the above as a licence to drink without thinking of the consequences or the context is to act without exercising responsibility, either for self or others. For example: (i) The Jewish culture was strict about the use of alcohol. Drunkenness was condemned. Jesus made up to 160 gallons of wine at Cana, but would he have done anything to intoxicate or bring harm to anyone? (ii) Drinking and riding a donkey, as in Jesus’ time, is less dangerous than drinking and driving today. Strong drink (fortified wines and spirits) and persuasion by advertising did not exist. Sanitation by our standards was non-existent and no doubt Paul offered Timothy sound medical advice at the time. (iii) There is a real issue about example. Hope UK Drug Educators have decided to adopt an alcohol-free lifestyle. Their example encourages alcoholics to stay ‘dry’ – and young people to do likewise or, at least, to choose alcohol-free options on some occasions. The bottom line is that this is not a simple issue although it can be simplified into one basic question – “What would Jesus do today and what would He have me do?”. Prevention and Personal Example Helping those with problems is not the only way of dealing with drink and other drugs. Prevention is much better than cure! Paul describes various attributes for teachers and pastors in his first letter to Timothy (1 Timothy 3:1-7) and includes the need for being ‘able to teach’ (v2). To teach, one needs knowledge and the first step in care or prevention is to become well informed. Peter writes about the need for Christians to be clear minded and self controlled (1 Peter 4:7) and Paul sums up a recurring Biblical theme when he writes “offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God” (Romans 12:1). Jesus’ two great commandments were to love God utterly and completely (Mark 12:30; Luke 10:27) and to love our neighbours as ourselves. The clear implication is that we need to look after ourselves physically and Paul described our bodies as temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16- 17 and 6:19). Personal example is also a key issue when working out how to prevent harm. What we do is seen and can be copied by others. Paul knew this when he wrote about avoiding actions which make other people stumble (1 Corinthians 8:13) – even if this means sacrificing something which you yourself can do safely.