When I was 19, just after World War 1, I went on a summer mission to Israel. Teenagers from all over North America would come together to make up missions teams. The first 2 weeks of the summer required everyone to go to Boot Camp in Central Florida. During this time, teams bonded and faced the challenges of boot camp together. The Mission wanted to create the harshest conditions any team would face to prepare us for the upcoming summer. Included in this training was a nightly rally under the Big Top. About 800 teenagers would gather to sing and hear messages of inspiration.
Well one night, the founder of this mission was the main speaker. His text was Proverbs 23:29-31 which says this – “Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has strife? Who has complaining? Who has redness of eyes? Those who tarry long over wine; those who go to try mixed wine. Do not look at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup and goes down smoothly.”
Then he went on to preach a very powerful, forceful message about the evils of wine and drinking alcohol of any kind. I remember him saying and “we are not even to look upon wine of any kind.” You know how teenagers can get. They love shouting and hollering which he encouraged. After he made the “don’t even look at wine statement” the entire tent stood clapping and yelling. I think I stood with them and probably clapped too. It was an intense emotional environment.
But later I thought about this talk and it’s message that drinking wine of any kind was sinful for the Christian. I thought back to my Mom telling me stories of how her parents made chokecherry wine out of the berries that grew around their farm. I thought about the occasional glass of wine my Mom and Dad would have at celebrations. I thought about Jesus changing water into wine. How did that fit with what this speaker said? Who was right? Were my parents and grandparents sinning by drinking wine?