What Can The Alcohol Debate Teach Us About Parenting?
The Alcohol debate has once again been stirred about by the news of Pastor Perry Noble’s firing. The arguments of many modern day teetotaler are once again floating to the top of our newsfeeds. The alcohol antagonists have always feared that their Christian drinking friends lacked the wisdom to properly exercise their liberty. These traditional Southern Baptists types knew that playing with fire would end badly. And now in Pastor Noble’s case, it has.
Today, I do not want to add another page to the alcohol discussion. Rather, I want to pivot and look at some of the parenting implications that spill over from of the latest discussions on drinking.
More Than Walls
Many in the Bible believing world think that Pastor Noble’s main problem was with alcohol. If he had just emptied his cabinets, he would still be employed. Those who disapprove of alcohol are boldly advocating that all wine, beer, and hard liquor should be avoided. If we would simply create enough walls, then we will be protected from sin and disaster.
And while I agree that we should encourage men and women who struggle to flee temptation, we must recognize that a drunkard’s problem is ultimately not Jim Bean or Budweiser. Jesus said,
It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person” (Matt. 15:11).
Nothing we eat or drink makes us a sinner. Nothing we eat or drink causes us to lose our job. Pastor Noble sinned, and we sin because we have a worship problem. We desire something more than God and that desire leads us to sin and destruction (James 1:14-15). In Pastor Noble’s case, he used alcohol to find satisfaction outside of Jesus. And sadly he found out like many before him, that sin only leads to “death.”
The antidote for drunkenness is not a house filled with Sprite. The antidote is satisfaction in Christ. Remember what Paul says in Ephesians 4:18, “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit,” If we want to stop being an alcoholic, we must replace our drunkenness with the Holy Spirit. We must find relief and happiness in God instead of a bottle of scotch.
The Heart of the Matter
So what do this mean for us as parents? We must realize that our kids greatest struggle is not outside of them but inside of them. Our kids sin because they desire things more than God. We can and should protect them from drunkenness, pornography, and a whole host of other sins. We should put up walls to keep our children away from temptation. But, we must not boast in our walls. Our moral, sexually pure daughter can still be controlled by a love of softball. Our nicely behaved son can still love his video games more than Jesus. Our nice kids can still easily worship things other than God. They can still be on the road to destruction. Denying our kids access to certain things does not prevent sin. We simply force our kids’ hearts to rumble along to the next device, person, or thing it can access for worship. Our job goes beyond creating behavioral standards.
Instead of boasting in walls and legalistically calling all parents to follow our standards, we must strive to reach our children’s hearts. We must recognize that our job does not come to an end when we can trot out pleasant children that society happily accepts. Our job does not end until our children are perfected in Christ (I.e. it doesn’t ever end). As parents, we are called to tackle our children’s hearts. We are called to tackle our daughter’s love for candy with the same concern that we address our son’s sexual sin. We must daily tell our kids that Christ satisfies. We must call our unrepentant children to place their hope in Christ and remind our believing children that God is good. We must not boast in our walls because standards and limitations on Christian liberty do not save. Christ does. Are we ready to proclaim him?