Jesus and alcoholics, revisited

Posted: February 9, 2013 by J in Pastoral issues

Way back when, I posted about a young man we kn0w who is alcoholic:

We’ve had a young man (lets call him Vijay) get involved with us this year, who when we first met him was a hopeless drunk.

Vijay took to hanging with my co-leader Christian, and their first meal together they went to the local RSL. They had a couple of drinks, and to Vijay’s surprise, he found himself able to stop at a couple of drinks. Normally, after two he would go on irresistibly to get smashed.

Vijay now finds that he can drink without losing it. He prefers not to drink usually, but he hasn’t taken a vow of abstinence or anything. He’s just not addicted any more.

It’s clear that alcohol has lost the power it once had over Vijay. We’re not assuming that’s complete and permanent. But we haven’t seen him drunk in ages now.

So all this makes me want to rethink what I’ve always been taught about alcoholism. I.e. that the only cure was complete abstinence. That’s the prevailing wisdom. But it isn”t how things have gone for Vijay.

To push this a bit, could we say to an alcoholic, ‘In our community alcohol has no power’? Could we make that claim for Jesus?Is it perhaps partly true, or even mainly true? Could we claim ‘In our community many people find that alcohol loses its power. You might find that too.’?

We didn’t actually make any of those claims specifically with Vijay. We just talked about Jesus more generally, and left it to him to sort out his drink problem.

I hope you’ll understand I’m in questioning mode.

Jesus Christ: lord over alcohol‘. Hmm, what do you think?



Vijay found that the troubles with drink kept returning. Alcohol was masking or ‘medicating’ other serious problems in his life, including extreme mental health issues. Whenever things got worse, drink was the habitual treatment.

Other alcoholic people we know have encouraged us to point Vijay in the direction of total abstinence. And also towards AA. We are now doing that, though he is reluctant.

So now I am thinking the answer to my questions above is, perhaps it’s unrealistic to expect an alcoholic person can normalise their relationship to drink. If it’s become a trigger or temptation, then perhaps avoidance is the wiser path to self-control and freedom.

I am aware that this is what everyone else thinks, probably bleedin’ obvious, but here at The Grit we tend to question everything.

What about Jesus’ lordship and power to set free, then? Is it limited in this area?

Jesus’ can certainly be trusted to bring freedom from enslavement to drink or anything else. But how much freedom? I guess a porn addict doesn’t expect to be able to use the internet without safeguards in place. It’s enough that he gets a system going where he knows he can stay safe. This represents a real freedom from the enslavement of porn – but the full freedom where the safeguards aren’t needed, might have to wait for Jesus’ return.

Perhaps it’s similar with alcohol? In Christ an alcoholic can find strength to get out of it, but can’t expect that he will be bulletproof from then on. Human weakness is an ongoing reality for God’s children in this life. Perhaps for now abstinence is the only safeguard strong enough to do the job.  Alcoholic friends I know tell me that this is in fact what everyone finds.

It seems to me that particularly with problems that have a physical or physiological component, a bodily aspect, often we have to wait for the resurrection day for freedom and release. Healing does happen, but generally people with weak backs, keep them for life. Alcoholism maybe can be considered one of these afflictions with a strong bodily aspect to it? So we have to wait for full healing?

So I’m thinking I’d say to an alcoholic person now, ‘Generally people find that the only alternative to alcohol addiction is abstinence. Jesus can help you get there if you want to.’

Still learning about this issue…


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