I confess that my college experience was nothing like this. I can recall attending one Halloween party where that type of atmosphere was present. Other than that, I don't believe I ever attended this type of function. It's not that I actively avoided these types of people. It simply was a crowd that I didn't find myself running in.
The party I attended I did so before I became a Christian. When I was saved, the church and atmosphere in the area confronted me with a major question: Can Christians legitimately be in and among and spend time with these types of people and run in these types of crowds?
It is a question that deserves some attention. Depending upon your church background and stance the answer may seem immediately apparent. The ironic thing is the "obvious" answer among Christians is different. For some the answer is essentially: "Of course a Christian should not be actively in the company of such people." Yet others would affirm something along the lines of: "Jesus spent time with sinners. How are we supposed to reach the lost if we don't meet them where they are?" Which answer is correct for the faithful believer? Is it somewhere in the middle?
First, let me address the issue of a Christian partaking in this type of behavior. Is it appropriate for a Christian to drink heavily with and among the company of others? Paul speaks to this issue directly and poignantly in Ephesians 5:18:
Ephesians 5:18 (ESV) — 18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit,
How about drinking among such people but not getting drunk? This approach is really a slippery slope. How much is too much? Just when is somebody "drunk?" These answers can both be subjective, and we don't have much in the way of biblical answers available to us. I'm going to move on to an even stronger stance so as to answer this question by way of implication.
Are we even permitted to actively hang out with these people in these settings? This is where the rubber meets the road with this question. Fortunately we have biblical instruction explicitly on this topic. Paul gives some general wisdom on the subject when he is discussing the resurrection from the dead in 1 Corinthians 15. Referring to those who disbelieve in the resurrection and who think that when you die it is simply over he describes their motto, and immediately gives some Christian wisdom:
1 Corinthians 15:32–33 (ESV) — 32 If the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” 33 Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.”
This is what those people we are discussing this morning are pursuing, The entire scene of partying and drinking heavily promotes this mindset. What is the biblical response to this perspective? Paul tells us in the next verse that “Bad company ruins good morals.” This is the biblical version of "You become like those you hang out with." Paul explicitly explains that we are not to be deceived and those we hang out with will influence us no matter how strong we think we are in our faith. Our good morals will be corrupted and diminished by hanging out in these crowds.
This still however may not answer the question for many. It is a general warning, and doesn't explicitly say the behavior is absolutely wrong. It tells us generally at very least, that such scenes and crowds we should not spend the majority of our time with, but it does not rule out the behavior entirely. Fortunately, we have another text from the Bible to clarify the subject for us.
Proverbs 23:19–21 (ESV) — 19 Hear, my son, and be wise, and direct your heart in the way. 20 Be not among drunkards or among gluttonous eaters of meat, 21 for the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty, and slumber will clothe them with rags.
What then do we make of Jesus? Does he not violate this very command? Did Jesus not actively spend times with each of these types of people and meet them where they were? This is a legitimate concern and I would like to bring two thoughts to bear on such a topic.
First, Jesus was sinlessly perfect. To say that we are permitted to go to these places because Jesus went to these places, fails to recognize this fundamental difference between Jesus and us. I do not grant that Jesus went to these places (as I will argue next), but even if I did, I am corrupted by sin in a way that he is not. As one of my professors said, I am not permitted to even mess around with sin because it will corrupt me. Yet, our heavenly father can work it together for good because it does not corrupt him. In a sense, he can "handle" it to shape and mold it to the good of his people though he is not the author.
Secondly, and more importantly, we have no evidence whatsoever that Jesus actively spent time "partying" with sinners in the manner that is prohibited by Proverbs, in the manner that people in our day often pursue it.
Yes, Jesus turned water into wine at a party. However, was that party the 1st century equivalent of a modern frat party? Perhaps a night in the VIP lounge of the hottest club? Hardly. In the context of John 2, Jesus was at a wedding. This is a time that calls for celebration and moderate drinking of alcohol is perfectly appropriate in this context. Jesus turns water into wine not because he didn't want the party to stop, but because he was assisting in the celebration! What is the righteous occasion that modern "partying" celebrates? Friday? Equating these two is absurdity. The fact the we party just because it is the weekend displays the wicked excess to which our society has fallen, and is exactly the denunciation that Proverbs refers to.
Yes, Jesus ate with sinners. However he did not do so in such a way to affirm them in their sin. Jesus' call to those who would follow him was a call to die. A call to give up everything and follow him. Jesus does NOT ask people to continue on in their lifestyles and add on a little bit of relationship with him from time to time. Yet this is primarily the image that we paint for people if we go and party with them while trying to simultaneously tell them about Jesus. We are affirming them in their lifestyle and saying to them that as Christians we can live in this manner as well. Rather, Jesus calls for radical abandoning of one's sinful lifestyles to pursue and follow him wholeheartedly.
Matthew 11:18–19 (ESV) — 18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ 19 The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds.”
In conclusion, the "partying" atmosphere that is so common in our day is not something that Jesus would promote or be involved with at all. However, Jesus would seek to minister to these people and call them to radical repentance and faith. As believers, we are to conduct ourselves with the same mindset of our Savior to be sure, but the appropriate place to call sinners to repentance is NOT from the other end of the beer pong table. Examine your heart and the Scriptures before God to make sure that you are conducting yourself in a manner worthy of our Lord.
Isaiah 5:22 (ESV) — 22 Woe to those who are heroes at drinking wine, and valiant men in mixing strong drink,