Whenever my non-Christian friends invite me to a bar, house chilling or any type of social event (knowing that I don’t drink to get drunk), I always get conflicted. Part of me says no, because I shouldn’t associate myself with the secular lifestyle.. right? But the other part of me says why not, because I know how to drink responsibly, I can’t always keep saying no to them and I don’t wanna become legalistic. Any help on this? Does this relate to the “do not be yoked with unbelievers” verse?
I get questions like these often, and a long time ago, I would’ve said, “You stay away from that place unless you prefer the flames of hell!”
If we were talking about sexual temptation, a former life of addiction, or a criminal past, then I’d say: keep a healthy distance from environments that would pull you back in. But now we’re talking about a sticky issue that isn’t so black and white.
Honestly, I don’t have a straight answer on this one because all your conflicted feelings are correct. It will take a day-by-day discernment by God’s wisdom to know what is best, and you’ll have to examine your motives carefully.
If your cover is “I can drink responsibly / I can’t keep saying no to them / I don’t want to be legalistic” so you can get a little nuts and secretly hope to catch a glimpse of some nasty women, then it’s harmful to you. If you’ve had a drinking problem, your friends will understand when you say no. If you’re having a rough day and then decide to drown your sorrows, don’t go. If there’s a day when you’re vulnerable, angry, or emotional, it’s not a good day to drink no matter how your friends convince you. If you’re not-drinking to “prove your faith,” that could reek of superiority.
Once you dig beneath all the clever excuses, you’ll need to dig through your heart to see what’s going on. It’s actually not that hard: most of us can figure out exactly why we’re going to do something if we think on it hard enough. I don’t know your motives, but in the end I can tell you a few things to consider.
1) No one ever found Jesus by the witness of somebody NOT-drinking.
2) Being yoked with non-believers is more about your heart. A Christian who never drinks can still have “secular” thinking in a ton of other areas, so this is not a metric of your faith.
3) Overall, even though each social event will have to be weighed by your motives and God’s particular wisdom, I don’t recommend making it a regular habit to hang out there. Your friends will also understand your decisions: I’ve found that most non-Christians are actually way less judgmental than Christians, especially if you tell them about a drinking problem. How about that.
4) Every single person who has said “I can drink responsibly” or “I don’t drink to get drunk” is still not immune to the environment itself. I’ve been at parties where people shot each other, got stabbed, and wrecked cars, and you’re not in control of that. Also, these responsible drinkers eventually end up using the table as a dance floor. You know, pride before the fall.
5) However you treat drinking, that is NOT the issue with your non-Christian friends. The Big Picture will be how you serve them, love them, and are available for them without ever judging them. If you can whip up hot cookies and a DVD from Red Box or challenge them to Settlers of Catan, you’re replacing a night of drinking with something way more awesome.
6) When your non-Christian friends run to the end of their lifestyle spent dry and totally empty, they’ll look for you — that is, if you were the non-judgmental loving Christian who actually understood grace. I pray you’ll be the person who receives your friend with open arms, ready to tell them about the one who saved you.