Wednesday, June 02, 2004

What to do?

I plan to get back to a continuation of the cardboard condominums, but first I have to prepare a little something for a meeting tomorrow.

One of the first days I was in the city of Osaka, I was acting as a tour guide for a couple of visiting Korean-American Pastors. We were riding the train back to our abode. It was a Saturday evening at about ten or so. As we boarded the subway car the reek of alcohol was in our faces. Most of the people in the car were in their business suits. Japan is notorious for its long workdays and workweeks. It struck me at that moment that these Japanese business people had finished their work for this week and had spent time after work drinking. It is to some degree a national pastime. This seems to be another of Japan’s idols, (there are many, both virtual and real). I have wondered a bit about it since. How do we approach this problem from a real-world biblical point of view? How do we make God’s Word relevant to the people on that subway car? Do we thump our bibles and preach abstinence at all cost? Do we do nothing and hope that eventually the problem will go away? Do we sit down for a beer and discuss the problem and see if we can’t come up with a good solution? In a moment of profound wisdom, I thought I should see what the Bible has to say regarding the subject. I turned first to the Psalms.

Psalm 104 parallels the first chapter of Genesis. The psalmist portrays God as Creator of the heavens and the earth, (vs. 1-9), who also adapted the earth for all living creatures, (vs. 10-23) who has dominion over all creation, (vs. 24-32) and who is naturally worthy of praise (vs. 33-35). As part of the earth being adapted for all living creatures we find that God “brings grain from the land and wine to make people happy” (The Message).

I then turned to Ephesians 5. Paul is writing to the people in the church of Ephesus, and instructing them in the art of weaving together belief and behaviour. In verse 5 Paul lets us know that “using people or religion or things just for what you can get out of them - the usual variations on idolatry - will get you nowhere, and certainly nowhere near the kingdom of Christ, the kingdom of God.” (The Message). That I think applies to the many variations on idolatry that exist not only here in Japan but also all over the world. And later in verse 18; “Don’t drink too much wine. That cheapens your life. Drink the Spirit of God, huge draughts of Him. Sing hymns instead of drinking songs! Sing songs from your heart to Christ. Sing praises over everything, any excuse for a song to God the father in the name of our Master, Jesus Christ.” (The Message).

And on to First Timothy where Paul is writing to Timothy, mentoring and guiding him in leadership. In chapter five Paul is giving Timothy some advice in the shepherding of the people of his congregation. In verse 23 Paul says “Go ahead and drink a little wine, for instance; it’s good for your digestion, good medicine for what ails you." ( The Message).

I haven’t yet come to a conclusion. My lack of knowledge toward the landscape of the culture leads me to postpone my conclusions until I find out a little more. I have started to build a solid foundation though by stepping through some of what God tells us regarding this subject.

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