Don Sunukjian


Choosing What Is Best

Increasing discernment by growing in love

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There were about 20 of us: the engaged couple, their parents, the bridesmaids and groomsmen who were going to be in the wedding the next day, and Nell and me. We had just left the wedding rehearsal, and now we were seated around a long table in the upstairs room of a Mexican restaurant. It was the joyful celebration dinner that follows the wedding rehearsal.

The bride's parents had been members of our church for about a year, and they were wonderful people. Only a year or two earlier, they had become Christians. It was all new and exciting to them, and they were growing and serving the Lord. And now their daughter was marrying a fine Christian husband.

There was lots of laughter and fun at the table. I remember saying real loud to the father of the bride, so everybody else at the table could hear, "Hey Gary. I asked a man once what it was like to give away his daughter in marriage. He told me, 'It's like taking your finely tuned Stradivarius and handing it to a gorilla.'" Everyone laughed. But the mother of the groom stood up and said, "I'm the mother of that gorilla, and I resent that." More laughter.

Just then the waitress brought in margaritas and set one down in front of everybody. When everybody had one, Gary got up with his margarita in his hand to make a toast—a toast to the happiness of his daughter and her wonderful husband. Some people at the table reached for their margaritas; others looked down to see what I was doing. They all seemed to be asking, Is it okay to drink alcohol? What would the pastor think? What should I do?

Gary was finishing his toast, and my mind was spinning fast. Gary is absolutely innocent in what he's doing, I thought to myself. To him as a new Christian, it's perfectly natural that he would toast his daughter with a margarita. If I don't join in, he and his wife will be mortified. They'll think they've made a terrible mistake, that they've done something terribly wrong. They'll worry that the pastor will forever look down on them. If I don't join in, they'll take it as my disapproval of them spiritually.

But if I do join in, I continued, I know there are other people in the church who think it's a sin to drink alcohol. In their mind, Christians don't drink. If I do join in, they'll hear that I drank, and they'll think it's terrible—'The pastor drinks! What kind of a pastor is that?' And they'll sit in judgment of me and ignore my preaching from then on.

Situations like that one, in which you need to the best choice, come up all the time.

A few months ago we had a wonderful booth at the Armenian Festival in the park. People came by, learned about our church, and took our literature. Suppose next week I get a phone call: "Pastor Sunukjian, you don't know me, but I saw your booth in the park. My fiancée and I want to get married. We're not really church people, but we'd still like an Armenian pastor to perform the ceremony. Would you be willing to do it?"

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Donald Sunukjian is Homiletics Chair and Professor of Christian Ministry and Leadership at Talbot School of Theology in La Mirada, California.

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July 22, 2013  12:10pm

Throughout the New Testament drinking alcohol is addressed, but always in the sense of not getting drunk. Paul advised Timothy to drink a little wine for his stomach. Jesus converted water into wine. It is hard for me to believe that he converted it into grape juice since the wedding guests would obviously know the difference. Until Prohibition, most churches here in the U.S. used wine in communion. Today we seem to be taking a legalistic approach to what should be a spirit issue. I agree with the article one must consider the situation, consider biblical teaching, and then make the best decision.

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Roger Jensen

June 14, 2013  8:05pm

Wow! The comments posted hear seem very pharisaical and completely miss the point of the passage being illustrated through this story. My hope would be for people sitting in judgement to first seek understanding of the pastor's heart. Participating in the toast was done out of love, not legalism.

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chaplain woody Emahiser

April 15, 2012  1:57pm

I really wish that i could find a well informed person that lives and or works in St Paul, I have meny questions that should only come from a RABBI, these would be Questions in line to help the truck drivers that come in, all FAITHES,cam you help me,I am a retired truck driver, now after training a CHAPLAIN, and wanting to grow in the LORD, Thank you.!

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Gilbert Gerbrandt

January 09, 2012  7:21pm

Liquor is also called spirits - and is NOT the Holy Spirit. Jesus never 'made' or 'consumed' alcoholic drinks. Fermentation in God's Word always refers to sin, and our Lord Jesus Christ would have none of that.

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Stefan Burnham

December 28, 2011  11:43am

The choice of drinking alcohol would depend on a person's decision on how they want to treat the body/temple AND what example they want to be. That decision should be made long before we are sitting in front of a margarita! The Bible teaches in Corinthians that the body is NOT our own; that it is a temple. Some say Jesus drank alcohol when he created 'wine' at a wedding; He did not. In fact, a little word study proves the 'wine' was new wine (juice) as opposed to 'old' wine (fermented). It's easy to justify drinking alcohol when we believe Jesus consumed it. ALL Christians should refuse alcohol. I am aware that for many Christians being a teetotaler is, well ...hard to swallow! Perhaps the pastor was being tested by the wedding host/server that served the alcohol. It would seem that the host would know his invited guests, and would know who drank and who did not. The pastor should have been asked if he/she wanted a drink. How many margaritas are enough? What's the goal? Why start?

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