“He’s a wine-bibber. Be careful.” Somebody was being warned about me!
A chap who I’d known for years, had come to a meeting at our home. We sang, worshipped, read the Bible and prayed. And chatted and laughed. A day or two later he saw one of the leaders of his church (a great gospel preaching church, full of lovely people – but also somewhat legalistic), and told him he’d been to a meeting at our home. And the leader advised him to be careful – ‘cos Barrie is a wine-bibber!’
The next time the chap was round at our home, he grinned and said, “You’re a wine-bibber!’, and related the encounter and conversation with his church leader. I laughed and replied, “It’s worse than that. I’m afraid I’m also a friend of sinners. Please tell your church leader.”
So what’s a ‘wine-bibber’? It’s an archaic term for someone who habitually drinks too much wine. It occurs in the New Testament, but only in the King James translation, and the context is this. John the Baptist lived in the wilderness, living a very simple life, and the religious leaders criticised him, saying “He has a demon”. Jesus spent much time amongst ordinary people, enjoying meals with them, and the religious leaders criticised him saying, “He is a glutton and a wine-bibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners”. (Matthew 11:19). I assume from this that Jesus enjoyed wine with his food. Horror of horrors!
I really enjoy wine, and have done for years, probably 1964. I also enjoy a relationship with the Lord Jesus, and have done since October 1965. What’s the problem, and hey – does that make me a wine-bibber? Let me tell you something about my enjoyment of wine.
I arrived at London University in 1963, and now free of parental restraint, decided I would smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol, and go to parties. I felt this would bring me great satisfaction in living. Problem number 1 – I didn’t have much money. Problem number 2 – it didn’t bring the anticipated satisfaction. But I’ll come to that later.
Shortly after I arrived at the University hall of residence, an announcement appeared on the notice board, stating that for a very modest subscription, one could join the University Wine and Food Society, where all food and wine would be included in the membership. I saw the subscription as an investment, and joined without hesitation.
I started attending their meetings. Food was never mentioned. Lectures on wine were reasonably short. There were around 6 glasses of wine each for tasting, and at the end of each evening, the sawdust bins into which we were to spit the tasted wines were as dry as a bone. A sherry essay competition was announced, open to the whole university. I did a short intense study on sherry
– and won the competition!
‘Who’s Barrie Lawrence?” people asked. Then there was the University wine tasting competition, and I entered.
An anxious looking consultant at the hospital where I was studying, spoke to me, explained that I was ‘representing our hospital’, and offered me a crash course on French wines. I spent an hour or two with him, applied the imparted knowledge, and came second in the competition. “Who’s Barrie Lawrence?”, asked the committee of the wine and food society. And the following year I was on the committee, and learnt a little more about the wines that I was enjoying. Which was around 50 years ago, though today I have an extensive wine rack, and still regularly enjoy a variety of wines. But in moderation, which means I am not a ‘wine-bibber’.
But although I enjoyed wine (and cigarettes and student parties – of which both are now history), I could not find the elusive satisfaction and fulfilment I longed for. I was a disappointed young man. After a year or two, burning the candle at both ends with studying and partying, I was on the verge of a breakdown, when someone told me that Jesus was the answer. I thought they were nuts. But other students, who were decent intelligent people, told me the same. And so, to cut a long story short, Barrie the atheist seriously sought the truth concerning whether Jesus is alive today, found it is true, and became Barrie the born-again Christian. Satisfied. Fulfilled. Writing this, and inviting any questions.
A wine-bibber? I think not. A totally convinced, committed, satisfied and fulfilled Christian? Absolutely. And if I had to choose between the two, I would not be choosing wine!