I am reading Albert Camus’s book The Rebel: An Essay on Man in Revolt. Here is a quote that seemed to stand out. I am also going to comment a bit on it. I am going to include the context. The stuff in bold is what I want to focus on.
Metaphysical rebellion presupposes a simplified view of creation – which was inconceivable to the Greeks. In their minds, there were not gods on one side and men on the other, but a series of stages leading from one to the other. The idea of innocence opposed to guilt, the concept of all of history summed up in the struggle between good and evil, was foreign to them. In their universe there were more mistakes than crimes, and the only definitive crime was excess. In a world entirely dominated by history, which our’s threatens to become, there are no longer any mistakes, but only crimes, of which the greatest is moderation.
I think that final statement proves true in our society, and, in particular, in the church culture of our nation (by “church culture” I am referring to groups of Christians or things claiming to be such). I am not speaking of alcohol alone at this point. Look at the culture of the church and you will find things on one extreme or the other.
You have your seeker-friendly mega-churches that have a rock concert every Sunday morning and an inspirational speaker giving some good self-help and self-improvement talks. On the other hand, you have your extreme fundamentalist (I am using “fundamentalist” in a negative way for emphasis) churches that have no symbols of any kind and the walls are barren and they hold the regulative principle up as the only rule for practice in the church (I worded it that way on purpose). Notice the extremes. And what is it that happens to and between these groups? They condemn eachother as being either “worldly” or “behind the times”. Again, notice the extremes.
I don’t think that this is how God intended Christianity to be. I don’t think that God intended Christianity to be extreme right-wing or extreme left-wing. I think that God intended Christianity to be a symbol of moderation in our world; a place of refuge; a place of love; a place to get away from all the right-wing/left-wing fighting that goes on in the world.
And we allow it to go on as if this is how it is supposed to be. “We can’t associate with them because they use electric guitars in their music.” “We can’t associate with them because they’re boreing and don’t use any instruments.” “We can’t associate with them because they don’t believe the same way on the issue of what Bible translation to use.”
And this feeds right into the issue of drinking.
“To what should I compare this generation? It’s like children sitting in the marketplaces who call out to each other: We played the flute for you, but you didn’t dance; we sang a lament, but you didn’t mourn! For John did not come eating or drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon!’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.” (Matthew 11:16-19 HCSB)
Notice what happened with Jesus and John. People looked at their actions and went to extremes. As The Message stays,
John came fasting and they called him crazy. (Matthew 11:18 MSG)
And then Jesus came along.
The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!'” (Matthew 11:19a HCSB)
It’s a natural part of the human condition to go to extremes, or so it would appear.
We need to keep in mind what those around us are thinking about us if and when we decide to have a little bit to drink. We saw the other day that the Bible teaches moderation. And we saw today that we as humans have a tendency to take things to the extreme. This is where self-control and human responsibility some in.
Therefore, let us no longer criticize one another, but instead decide not to put a stumbling block or pitfall in your brother’s way. (I know and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself. Still, to someone who considers a thing to be unclean, to that one it is unclean.) For if your brother is hurt by what you eat, you are no longer walking according to love. By what you eat, do not destroy that one for whom Christ died. (Romans 14:13-15 HCSB)
We need to be cautious about when we do things, even in moderation. I would think that it would be a sin to have a beer in the presence of someone who is an alcoholic. And I would think it would also be a sin if you’re with a bunch of Christian people and they all are having a beer (let’s say it’s just one) while discussing theology and you don’t drink one and it distracts from the study of God’s word. We need to be careful.
Moderation teaches self-control. Self-control leads to a life that is lived not on extremes or the traditions of men, but on the word of God and the authority found only in that.