You’re Not You When You’re Drunk

Who would have thought that a Supreme Court nomination process would generate a national discussion about binge drinking?

It is quite an awkward place for American culture, considering its movies have spent decades depicting drunk teens and coeds as the norm, its adults look forward to having a few too many on the weekend, and its networks are flooded with commercials glamorizing the party life. Our culture never winks as hard as it does when it says, “Drink responsibly.”

Nevertheless, as the Kavanaugh investigation unfolds I doubt anyone was surprised to find out that the instances of alleged sexual abuse also involved alcohol abuse. Furthermore, it’s not news to anyone that in instances of sexual assault on women “approximately one-half of those cases involve alcohol consumption by the perpetrator, victim, or both” (National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism).

The #MeToo movement has shined a glaring light on sexual assault, but the culture seems hesitant to deal with the elephant cowering in the corner. Drunkenness is a part of the problem. Far too long, Christians have been content to bicker with one another about whether to drink or not to drink. All the while, the world needs a united witness against the death trap of drunkenness.

Here’s the dangerous—and obvious—truth our culture cannot seem to grasp: You’re not you when you’re drunk.

Drunk You Is Out of Control.

You would never intentionally run over another person with your car. You wouldn’t go home with a total stranger. You wouldn’t sexually assault someone. You wouldn’t destroy someone’s personal property. You wouldn’t bad mouth your boss and co-workers in a vulgar tirade. You wouldn’t hit your wife. But the drunk you isn’t you. And the drunk you just might–might do any or all of those things. You really can’t say. Because you aren’t in control of the drunk you.

Our little Southern town is peppered with elderly widows who all tell common tales of domestic abuse and infidelity. I once bumped into a widow from church in the meat aisle of the grocery. As we were talking, she noticed “Jack Daniels” printed on the packaging of the pulled pork she had tossed in the basket of her motor scooter. “There’s Jack in this? I don’t want none of it!” I understood her visceral response. Jack had unleashed a monster in her home. Jack had turned the man she loved into a wife-beating adulterer.

There is a reason why the Lord warned Cain, “Sin is crouching at the door…” (Genesis 4:7). Sin wants control, but sin is also patient. When we are drunk with rage, drunk with lust, drunk with alcohol, drunk with power, the door of opportunity swings wide, and sin seizes the moment. It’s all we can do to fight sin when we are sober—what might the flesh do when our drawbridge is lowered and the guards are passed out in a pool of their own vomit?

Sober You Is Still Responsible.

One of the biggest lies we all choose to perpetuate is that naughty behavior is permissible when we’re drunk. Somehow the lie persists even as the #MeToo movement demonstrates quite clearly that isn’t the case. “But I was drunk” is an excuse that never holds up in court.

When sober you wakes up hung-over tomorrow, he will be held responsible for whatever drunk you did—whether sober you remembers it or not. There is no asterisk on the law saying, *These only apply when you’re sober. What is more, the things that lurk in the foggy corners of our guilty consciences may never see the light of day, and we may never be exposed by the #MeToo hashtag for grievous sins we committed while controlled by alcohol. Nevertheless, the secrets of our hearts will be exposed on that Last Day in the courtroom of God (Romans 2:15-16).

We Live in a Dark World.

The question we often ask is, “What will a couple more drinks really do to me?” The question should be, “What will I do after a couple of more drinks? And what might others do to me?” A sober Noah would never be sexually exposed to his son. A drunk Noah was (Gen. 9:21-25). Lot in his right mind would never sleep with his own daughters. A drunk Lot did (Gen. 19:32-38).

The author of Genesis tells us Lot’s daughter got him so drunk “he did not know when she lay down or when she arose” (Gen. 19:33). Proverbs illustrates our indefensibility when we are pass-out drunk: “‘They struck me,’ you will say, ‘but I was not hurt; they beat me, but I did not feel it. When shall I awake? I must have another drink.’” (Proverbs 23:35). It’s a dangerous thing to be drunk in this dark world.

Part of asserting the dignity of women has to include encouraging them to protect themselves from others who want to take advantage of them. Drunkenness makes us vulnerable not only to our own worst impulses but the worst impulses of others. Young ladies are never to blame in any instance of sexual abuse. However, if I could, I would spare them the pain and trauma and shame of the days, months, and years following an assault. No woman should ever be treated like some man’s rag doll.

Be Filled with the Spirit.

In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul actually uses drunkenness as an analogy for the Christian life. In the same way that we gave ourselves to the bottle to be controlled by its intoxicating pleasures, we now give ourselves to the Spirit. Paul describes the darkness we’ve been called out of as a boozy haze of filthiness and sexual immorality. Peter portrays it as a sweeping flood of debauchery—“living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry” (1 Peter 4:3).

As Christians, we are no longer children of the darkness, but children of God who “walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us” (Ephesians 5:2). We are no longer fools fumbling down a dark, drunken path but wise men and women seeking to do the will of the Lord. This happens as we give control of ourselves no longer to the bottle but to the Spirit: “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:17).

The bad news is, you’re not you when you’re drunk. The good news of the gospel is that you’re not you when you’re in the Spirit, either. The God who raised Jesus Christ from the dead gives life to our bodies. We have turned from death to life, from darkness to light, from flesh to the Spirit when we no longer abuse others but “[submit] to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Eph. 5:22).