The previous blog I wrote, 'Thinking about Drinking,' brought with it a lot of feedback. The most common response I received was from high school teens who don't drink but were wondering if it was wrong for them to go to parties where there is drinking.
This is an old debate – so old that I even had it with my own youth minister back when the only dribbling LeBron James was doing was from his mouth . . . in his crib.
Some say if you're at the party and you don't drink, you can be a good example to people who need it. Others say that if you go at all, you're basically approving of what's going on there because of your very presence at the party.
You can argue either point all day long; both arguments are valid and need to be prayerfully considered. On one hand, yes, people at parties need Jesus, too. On the other hand, yes, going does condone on some level what is happening there. Presence nonverbally communicates a variety of things to different people.
So, the fundamental question is, 'What am I going to accomplish by going or by not going?'
Yes, maybe by going and not drinking you'll be a good example, but that isn't enough of a reason to go. There's no guarantee that people there will know you're not drinking – they might be too drunk. They might assume you drink but lost the flip of the coin and are the designated driver. They might think you're okay with underage consumption but signed a contract with your coach not to drink, or made a pact with someone else not to do it. Standing there with a bottle of water in your hand might communicate one thing in your mind but it doesn't necessarily say it to the room.
The next question becomes whether or not you need to be there at the party to be a much-needed example. There are plenty of other places, times, and opportunities to point thirsty souls to the living water of Christ (John 7:37).
Too often, going to a party with the intention of 'being an example' is a justification people use to avoid standing out or standing up for their faith. They want to do the right thing but not to suffer socially for it.
Not going to the party makes a much bolder statement. It doesn't mean you're judgmental. It doesn't mean you're anti-fun or anti-friend. It means you're pro-God. You might think people won't notice or won't care, but you're wrong. No, the entire school might not take notice but some people will. Your courageous example to step away might be exactly what others need to see to do the same. There are others who, if given another option, would rather not be at the party.
If you're willing to stand and lead you might spend some weekend nights alone, yes, but your soul will be at peace. Your confidence and your esteem will grow because you know who you are and what you stand for. In reaffirming Who you live for your faith life will grow too. That's attractive and contagious. Others will want what you seem to have. You'll be amazed how many people (who might lack the courage) would be willing to blow off parties to do something a little more creative and a whole lot more fun.
It just takes a leader. It takes someone willing to stand up and be counted even if it means mockery or social suffering. Saints didn't set out to have huge followings. Saints set out to follow Jesus, and others followed them in their pursuit of Him.