Skip to content

Drunk without Alcohol: A Christian Perspective

Last week we learned how Jesus is purity, plenty and party. Out of a bad situation -- running out of wine at a wedding, Jesus creates wonderful wine from water.

Many years ago I took a course in Oxford on early Christian art; it was taught by an Anglican nun.

In one lecture she told us how she discovered a Christian wall painting that showed a vine without any grapes on it. “Why.” she asked herself, “didn’t it have grapes on it?”

First she thought that some early Christian painter must have borrowed an idea from Roman art, but when she researched it, she discovered that there wasn’t one other representation of a vine without grapes in all of Greek and Roman art. She knew that it couldn’t be a mistake, because Mediterranean people know what vines look like.

So then she hit on the idea of following up clues in early Christian literature, and after a long while she came across a passage of Clement of Alexandria, an early Christian writer, who said that to know Jesus was like inebriation without alcohol – being drunk without alcohol.

So the light went on. She realized that this mysterious vine in the wall painting was a representation of Jesus, who said, I am the vine, and this painter was saying that when we attach ourselves to this vine, it’s like being inebriated without the hangover afterwards.

Spiritual Inebriation

In the story of the wedding at Cana, we hear how Jesus turned water into wine, and the gospel-writer says that this act was so powerful that his disciples believed in him. They discovered the spiritual inebriation of being in God’s presence.

This was one of the very first occasions when the glory of Jesus was revealed to people. But the sign isn’t turning the water into wine; the sign is the wine itself, which is Jesus, who is inebriation without alcohol.

What is it like to be drunk without alcohol?

To be really happy and fulfilled in our relationships, our work, really content with the way we live in the world, without any bad side effects. -- no anger, regret, recriminations, that’s what it’s like to be spiritually inebriated.

That’s rare in our community where alcohol is all too prevalent. When my daughter turned 18, we held a dance at the church for her friends. We invited quite a few adults as chaperones, and made it clear there would be no alcohol. The teens had a great time in the gym with a DJ, while the adults hung around the edges, serving food. The next day, I got a call from one school friend, thanking us for the party. She said it was the first party she had been at where she had a good time that she remembered the day after. Too often we are looking for something or someone to give us a good time.

Faith should be Fun

The story of the wedding at Cana reminds us that being a Christian is really supposed to be good, pure fun, as at wedding feasts with friends and good wine, and that all of this is a sign of our relationship with Christ, and a sign of our inebriation without alcohol in Christ, which makes life really clean and pure and full of meaning.

Jesus is among us to provide glorious, brimming life.