“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8-9 NKJV).
“Alcohol kills more teenagers than all other drugs combined. It is a factor in the three leading causes of death among 15- to 24-year-olds: accidents, homicides and suicides.” So says the opening statement for an article titled, ‘The Truth about Alcohol’. Alcohol abuse is clearly a perennial problem of major proportions. People persist in getting drunk, and people who get drunk create problems. It isn’t all that surprising, then, that there are repeated admonitions from God prohibiting the practice.
My experience in dealing with problems caused by alcohol abuse is more extensive than I would wish, but one episode from our time in Alaska sort of sticks in my head. I had an invitation to lend a helping hand in the local jail, an intriguing prospect to say the least, but one that didn’t fit well in my comfort zone. The inside of a jail, even a tiny one like ours, was not familiar territory to me, and I knew next to nothing of the ins and outs of jail etiquette. My background offered little in the way of preparation for the job other than my prior contact with people and problems associated with alcohol, but that turned out to be about all that was needed.
The vast majority of our guests were there because they did things they wouldn’t have done had they been sober, like the guy they brought in who stole a car. That’s a serious crime on any basis, but this was not just a car, it was the taxi. And to be explicit, this was not just ‘a’ taxi. This was ‘the’ taxi. He stole the only taxi we had in our little village, and on a Saturday night, which presented a significant problem to folks in town who didn’t have a car, and especially to those too drunk to operate one even if they had it.
The perpetrator had absconded with it from its usual spot in front of the town’s only bar, leaving numerous patrons stranded, most facing too long a walk, on too cold a night, and who were too drunk to walk anywhere anyway. The gravity of the situation necessitated that the entire compliment of the town’s investigative resources be called into action, meaning the village public safety officer and his deputy, but this was the ‘taxi’, so even the mayor got involved.
Though definitely a high profile case, it was not a complicated one. Being quite a ways south of sober, the thief’s plan, if he had one at all, was not well thought out. In the first place, everybody saw him stagger out to the taxi and drive it away, so all hope of anonymity was lost. Then there were the geographic considerations. Our entire road system only covered about seven miles, and all the roads stopped at the edge of town. Beyond that, you were left to fly, walk, float, or swim—no more roads. There weren’t really a lot of places to hide a taxi. After carefully calculating the suspect’s probable next move, the intrepid law enforcement collective headed over to his house, where a careful search of the premises eventually led to the stolen taxi. To avoid detection, the culprit had cleverly parked it behind his house instead of out front. Hmmm…..
When asked why he did it, he answered, “Don’t know—just drunk, I guess.” Intoxication has consequences. It impairs judgment, slows reflexes, and disrupts balance and stability. It can affect vision, distort our emotional apparatus, slur our speech, and dull our senses. We lose the capacity for self-control, and for recognizing or applying appropriate social restraints. At certain levels it can leave us totally incapacitated, or dead. Is any further elaboration needed? No wonder God addresses it from two perspectives. He condemns drunkenness, but goes beyond that by admonishing us on the positive side to be sober. It’s as if not being drunk isn’t quite enough.
There are other points to consider. For instance, intoxication doesn’t always require exposure to outside chemical substances. Symptoms of intoxication can be induced by behaviors and patterns of thinking. Intense and obsessive desires can also alter judgment, perception, mood, and self-control. Whatever form it takes, intoxication is harmful. It is deceptive, dangerous, and ultimately destructive. Its effects are never positive, and yet in spite of that, multitudes seek it. Our culture promotes it everywhere, and the vast majority of our people ignore serious potential consequences in order to experience it.
God pulls us away from that dangerous state of multi-level impairment. His desire is that we live in a state where all of our physical senses, our emotional apparatus, and our spiritual reserves are functional and accessible, because everybody benefits. Sober people make better judgments. Sober people see clearer, walk straighter, and accomplish more than those who are intoxicated. They are wiser, more creative, more dependable, more trustworthy, and more perceptive than intoxicated people. Sober people even enjoy pleasure in ways that intoxicated people can’t feel. Sober people are preferred over drunks in every situation where peak performance is critical. If we were having surgery, or boarding a plane, or needing legal defense, or drowning, or needing spiritual guidance in a personal crisis, which would we prefer in that vital leadership role? The sober guy or a drunk?
In light of that, what if the ‘Body of Christ’ ever became intoxicated? What if we got so caught up in the transient feelings of music, for instance, that the message, and maybe God’s purpose for singing altogether, was lost? What if our desire for acceptance, approval, or popularity left us stumbling around and changing our stand to try to match those around us? What if pride so dulled our senses that we were left simply going through the motions and manipulating others to promote ourselves or our program, and felt nothing? What if greed, financial advancement, and the lure of the ‘big church’ caused us to ignore those poor and needy ones without resources? What if an attempt to accommodate conflicting philosophies left us spouting senseless gibberish? Then suppose we had a nation in critical need for spiritual help, for wisdom, truth, deliverance, and hope, and suppose they looked to the one resource God sent to provide it and saw disorientation, poor judgment, slow reflexes, slurred, incomprehensible speech, dulled senses, an inability to focus, instability, and a lack of coordination. Where would that leave them?
And finally, there’s this. My friend in the village jail eventually sobered up as drunks always do, but when sobriety arrived, his freedom to use it was gone.
© 2015 Gallagher’s Pen, Ronald L. Gallagher, Ed.S. All rights reserved.
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