Romans 14:17-18 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men.
It was always amusing when we happened to sing the song made from verse 17 on a Sunday when we were having a pot luck dinner. However, that’s entirely coincidental to the main thrust of what Paul has written here. The point of this passage is focusing on fellowship with God, rather than on assorted rules and regulations. In some circles, tobacco is a sticking point. I don’t smoke, and I feel it is poor stewardship of the bodies God has given us, but like one of my seminary professors said, “Smoking won’t send you to hell, it will just make you smell like you’ve been there.” Alcohol is even more of an issue in many churches, but again, the Bible never says, “Don’t drink,” it says, “Don’t get drunk.” (Ephesians 5:18) I don’t drink, for a number of reasons, but for some people a beer or a little wine can help relax at the end of the day, and actually is helpful for blood circulation. The risk is in excess, and that risk can be significant. I could go on and on with examples of things that one group approves and another condemns. What Paul is saying here is that focusing on such issues gets in the way of living authentic Christian lives. When we are walking in righteousness, peace, and the joy of the Holy Spirit, not only will our lives be delightful, people will be drawn to us like magnets, and many will be saved.
As a pastor, I am to be setting the example here. That actually is a major reason why I don’t drink, because if I were to drink, others might say, “If Pastor Garrott drinks, then I can too,” and incur risks that they can’t handle. If someone’s conscience is bothered by what they do, then in line with the rest of this passage, I seek to help them change. Otherwise, my focus is far more on positives, things we need to be doing, like regular prayer and Bible reading, than on negatives, things we shouldn’t do. I have found that people who rely on alcohol, for example, are far less likely to be filled with the joy of the Holy Spirit, and I don’t hesitate to say so. I point out that I’ve been “drunk on the Holy Spirit” many times, but I’ve never had a hangover! I seek to help people believe that God really wants them to be happy, but that the world’s methods won’t do the job. When we have that understanding, we realize that God’s commands aren’t burdensome, but are for our blessing. (1 John 5:3)
Father, thank You for the righteousness, peace, and joy of walking with You. Help me communicate that better and better, drawing more and more into that fellowship, for their salvation and Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!