I talk to teenagers just about every day, and the conversations are often the same. They deal with the Bible and what the Church teaches and how challenging it can be to live a holy life in an unholy culture. I'd say that most teens that I talk to are truly looking for the Lord; some, however, are looking less for the Lord and more for the 'loopholes.'
For instance: 'I heard that the Bible doesn't say drinking alcohol is a sin.'
'Well, no, the Bible does not say that drinking alcohol is a sin,' I respond. I then go on to explain that it does become sinful (very easily), if any of the following happen:
- If you are not of legal age. (Romans 13:1-7, Matthew 22:21)
- If you fail to do so in moderation – meaning you should not get drunk or even 'buzzed.' (1 Thessalonians 5:6-8, Galatians 5:21, Romans 12:1-3; 13:13)
- If your consumption leads you to dependence upon it. (1 Timothy 3:8, Titus 2:3, Luke 21:34)
- If doing so … in any way … leads others into sin. (Romans 14:21, 2 Corinthians 6:3, Matthew 13:41)
Some young people embrace these truths and accept them with humility as they try to grow in holiness. Others just try to debate, justify, legitimize, or argue their way around them because they don't like the answer. Here's where the disconnect usually happens. Where do you want your energy to go: toward the Lord or towards some desired 'loophole?'
High school students sometimes argue that they are mature enough to drink alcohol before they're 21. 'I can die for my country, but I can't buy a beer,' I often hear uttered by seniors.
The question at hand is not your maturity, necessarily. I know plenty of people who are chronologically legal to drink, but far too immature to be doing so. Maturity is about more than age, but true maturity also encompasses humility, and wisdom. Obedience is an even greater sign of maturity than courage; it takes courage (and humility) to be obedient.
Some teens say there's just nothing fun to do in their town or argue about how stressful their life is and how they just need a drink to relax. If you need alcohol to have fun or to relax – that's a sad statement about your life, your friends, and a probable sign of a far deeper problem like addiction.
Some people just want an excuse … alcohol – to act like an idiot or to be sexually promiscuous without being held too accountable for it. Drunkenness doesn't excuse or justify sins … it adds to the sin and often magnifies them even more. You are not held accountable by God only for what you remember… but for what you do.
Others think that drinking alcohol in some way validates and legitimizes them, or makes them more of an adult. This is just stupid. Your worth comes from Jesus Christ, not from drinking. Your dignity comes from God. And while the Bible does not overtly say that drinking alcohol is sinful, it is very, very clear in warning about the dangers and problems that often come with alcohol.
Our holiness is not measured by what we want but by what God wants for us. Obedience and humility make us holy. An openness to God's grace makes us holy. Allowing that grace to make us more virtuous makes us holy.
The cup that Christ offers us to drink from is not being passed from a keg … it is a cup of sacrifice, a cup of suffering that comes with putting God's will ahead of our own.
For those of you still reading, I'm proud of you. I'm very proud of you, because your heart is open – maybe more open than you realize – and the Lord wants to speak to that openness.
For those who have gotten angry while reading this – I'd invite you to pray about this more in the Lord's presence. Go before the Blessed Sacrament with your arguments and philosophies and see if the Lord is as supportive of them as your friends are.
God wants us to be pure. God wants us to live for Him. God wants us to be examples. God wants us to lead others to holiness, not to sin. St. Paul called this 'the law of love.' It basically meant that we should avoid anything that could cause one of our fellow brothers or sisters in Christ to stumble or fall on their walk toward Him.
So where do you want to spend your energy … seeking the Lord or the loopholes?