I was listening to the Wretched Podcast today, and they did one of their entertaining and provocative "Iron Criticizing Iron" segments. The topic for this installment was whether or not the song "Beer with Jesus" gets a thumbs up or a thumbs down.
This segment on Wretched consists of Todd, Tony, usually David (the Chocolate Knox), and sometimes either Joey or Joel, talking about the theology of an issue. Sometimes, as is the case in this instance, they'll talk about a pop culture issue, and determine whether or not it's theologically sound, something Christians should participate in, etc.
Like I said, this time they analyzed the song "Beer with Jesus," and talked among themselves about whether the song was profitable (in a spiritual way) or not. Here's the song, and you can read the lyrics here.
If you read the lyrics or listen to the song, you'll find that 95% of the lyrics are good and sound. The singer talks about asking Jesus some good questions, admits he's a sinner, and expresses a desire to grow in holiness. Nothing wrong with that. The crux of the song is the fact that he's having "a beer with Jesus." Is Jesus someone with whom one could have a beer?
Before we get into what the guys on the show thought about the song, and what I think about the song, I think we need to affirm that drinking alcohol is not a sinful activity. Alcohol is a morally neutral substance. It is neither right nor wrong, bad nor good. It can be used sinfully, and it can be used rightly (more on that in a minute). A biblical case against alcohol as a substance cannot be soundly made, at least in my opinion. But certainly when it comes to the misuse of alcohol, the Bible is full of all kinds of warnings and wisdom that we should take heed of. All that to say that I don't think the song can be tossed out simply because it connects Jesus to beer. Now onto Wretched's analysis.
One of the guys immediately gave the idea of having a beer with Jesus a thumbs down. Again, not because of the beer, necessarily, but because he believed Jesus to be too high and holy to have any kind of beverage with. That is, is Jesus really a buddy that I could have a beer with, or is he a high and holy God who sits at the right hand of the Father, the one to whom angels bow and cry, "Holy, holy, holy!"?
I think this is a good thought. The resurrected Lord is certainly the Lord of holiness and transcendence. He is higher than we can ever imagine. He demands the respect and worship of all peoples, and every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father. That doesn't sound like a drinking buddy to me. On the other hand, however, there are ample scriptures that affirm Jesus' nearness. That is, although he is indeed high and transcendent, he is also meek and lowly - able to come down to the lowest depth to rescue lost sinners. After all, Jesus dined with tax collectors and sinners, and he called those who follow him his "friends." No doubt he shared some wine with them and answered their questions. Would he not do the same for me? I think he would. One of my favorite hymns is "No, Not One!" which states, "No friend like him is so high and holy; and yet no friend is so meek and lowly." I think this is a good description, and presents the real dichotomy we face when thinking about how we relate to Jesus and vice versa.
Tony, the resident Lutheran on Wretched, gave the song a thumbs up. He said the singer was asking genuine questions, was open and honest and humble, and that since beer is not inherently sinful, that Jesus would indeed have such a conversation and enjoy a beer with someone.
While I don't particularly find anything wrong with having a beer, and I think I can be persuaded from scripture that Jesus would come down to my level to "have a beer with me," I think I ultimately have to give the song a thumbs down. The reason for this is the role that alcohol has come to play in our society. As I said earlier, I don't think alcohol is inherently sinful in and of itself, but it must be recognized that the vast majority of alcohol use in our society is sinful. That is, people in our country mostly abuse alcohol, or use it as an escape. In fact, you could probably safely assert that alcohol has an overwhelmingly negative reputation in our society. This is why I, although I don't think drinking is sinful, pretty much stay away from alcohol altogether. I might imbibe once in a while, but my regular pattern of life is to leave it aside.
But why not partake if it's not sinful? My reasoning is this: because of all the damage that alcohol has done to our society, and because of all the relationships it has played a part in ruining, and because of all the people in our society who continue to struggle with addiction to alcohol, I have chosen to not endorse it as a regular part of life. Can you drink and not sin? Of course! But I would caution anyone who drinks to do so carefully. Everything we do speaks to those around us. I, for one, don't want to send a message that I either approve of or am indifferent to the massive detrimental effect alcohol has had on our society. In my opinion, drinking alcohol can communicate that message, and that's something I don't want to be a part of.
That being said, I think I would not rule out the idea of Jesus having a beer with an unrepentant sinner who is under conviction and seeking truth. In that case, alcohol might be a part of that person's context (maybe even sinfully), and so having a beer with Jesus might work. But even then, if beer was a main part of a person's sinfulness and rebellion, would Jesus condescend to the level of participating with someone in something that is a sin issue for them? I should think not.
This is why I ultimately give the idea of having "a beer with Jesus" a thumbs down. In our context, I can't see Jesus having a beer simply because of all the damage beer has been responsible for. In other contexts, however, where the damage of alcohol is less pervasive, and where the responsible use of it is more culturally acceptable, I think it would make sense. That is, the idea of Jesus having a glass of wine with a French person singing is probably more acceptable than the idea of him having a beer with an American. Why? Because our cultures view alcohol differently.
Look at the lyrics again. If you replaced "have a beer" with "take a walk" throughout the song, I'd have no problem with it, although the context of the song certainly wouldn't make sense (not too many jukeboxes out on nature paths). But the concepts are the same: a humble sinner inquiring of the Lord.
Let's just leave the beer out of it.