On Absolutes and Change

September 20, 2014

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When do actions which are tied to our faith become absolutes? Are there times when culture changes, we can accept or even embrace some of these changes in the church?

Let me tell you what I observed recently.

I was at a restaurant in the United States. Sitting at an outdoor patio was the young man pictured.


What do you see in this picture?

He was dressed in work clothes, seemingly relaxing after a day of work.

He pulled out his Bible along with some form of study guide. He would pause often to jot insights down in a journal. He sat engaging in these studies for over an hour.

And he was drinking a beer.

What things comes to your mind at this point?

In many nations where I work, abstaining from alcohol is a cultural absolute for Christians.

Previously, when I was growing up in the States, this too was true. Now in many areas it is accepted for Christians to drink, with the absolute being to abstain from drunkenness.

Historically we as a church have struggled with cultural changes, only to later embrace them.

In the 60’s with the Jesus Movement, long hair and loud clothing were looked down upon.

In the 80’s, we struggled with the rock and roll style music in our worship services.

The 21st century has seen tattoos appear on those same worship leaders when they previously were reserved for biker gangs!

I’m not advocating a certain view on alcohol, rather I am attempting to promote thought.

This young man has a job and seems to work hard.
This is a godly trait spoken of often in Scripture.
He is reading his Bible in public. He is not ashamed of his faith.
The study and journaling aspect of his time struck me as someone committed to learning and growing.

Our natural inclination is to fixate on the alcohol.

If we are tempted to compare ourselves to him, or even judge him, we should ask ourselves a few questions:

Are we walking in laziness? Do we have a godly work ethic?
When is the last time we spent an hour in the word, studying and journaling?
Are we as bold with our faith as this gentleman?

I don’t know this guy. I don’t know his story. But he made me think.

When we are confronted with behavior which challenges our cultural or religious grids, how do we respond?

If this young man were my son:
–  I would do my part to educate him as to the dangers of alcohol.
– I would certainly share with him the danger of this becoming a stumbling block for others who struggle with addiction or have a history of alcoholism.
– If my son were heading to parts of Africa, I would tell him about “freedoms” he must be willing to give up for the sake of others.
– I might even wish he could have the same quiet time with a coffee rather than a beer.

But as a father, there would be a huge part of me which would love the fact that my son was spending over an hour in the Word of God, engaging with it deeply enough to result in journaling.

Again, I’m not advocating one view of the other.

Sometimes I just wonder if we take the absolutes which do exist and throw in a whole lot of our own styles, preferences, and both national and religious culture?

This is a dangerous post.

My ramblings and thoughts could easily be construed as doctrine and beliefs. I could now be accused of being one of those grace guys where “anything goes.”

This is a conversation which is continuing in my heart and mind.

What are your thoughts on absolutes and change? How can we be forward thinking rather than reactionary on this?

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A missionary teacher for 24 years currently living in South Africa. I am a recovering superhero, daily in need of the grace of God

4 responses to On Absolutes and Change

  1. I am in agreement with the grace of God, given to us….it is not so much what is taken into the mouth that any true christian would understand is not of importance. But, what comes out that is of greater importance. For God said in Matthew 15:11 …it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth that defiles. If a person continuously look at people by what they observe on the outside whether it is smoking, drinking, or eating, then they themselves will be judged in the same way (Matthew 7:1-2)…and, why look at the speck in his eye…in my opinion, the person looking and or observing this young man reading a bible, taking notes and so on may need to ask himself…”what am I doing to bring glory to God”?…take the plank out of your eye…so you can see that he is reading the Word, and is ” at the least trying to understand God”, while the one judging him by his beer. What he is doing is no better that the Pharisees of yesterday. No better than they were then and now…where is the glory in that attitude? …in time, when the Holy Spirit convicts this man…and only then will His mercy be prevailed to him. Excuse me…but you can call me one of those “grace guys” and as it is in the world…anything does go. But, if it were not by God’s grace and God’s mercy we too could be doing any one of a thousand things. So called christians are those who look to the outside, where God looks what is on the inside. We should take Jesus’s advise. Matthew 15:11-Leave them; they are blind guides. If the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.” And then…if you are bold enough, rebuke them and ask them…v.16…are you still so dull….

  2. The action of drinking a beer doesn’t bother me a bit. Looks like it was a hot day, he appears to be alone and more concentrated on his studies than getting drunk. The joy of seeing a young man in the Word far outshines any thoughts of what he is drinking. If he was with a brother on the patio, a brother who struggled with drink or was weaker in any way, and he still insisted on beer – then there could be cause for concern. The “food” he was taking in far outweighs any liquid. I was in Vegas a year ago and was delighted to see a young man reading his Bible and taking notes right in the middle of the mall attached to a casino. Cheered my heart. Does the fact the he lives in Vegas change his standing before Christ? No. Let us encourage the good behaviour and let the Holy Spirit correct the rest.

    • I love your example of how a Christian “survives” in Vegas. Sounds a lot like it would have been in ancient Ephesus and they made it! Good thoughts!