Writing about alcohol on a Christian web site is like mentioning fire in a crowded theatre: it is bound to create quite a panic. But something is happening this week that I felt I could not ignore. September 24th will mark the 250th anniversary of Guinness. What makes this an interesting event is not simply that it marks 250 years of brewing for Ireland’s national beer, but rather that the man behind the beer is so remarkable.
Many Christians will find it surprising to know that Arthur Guinness was actually a devout Protestant and lover of Jesus. As a Christian Guinness had a deep social conscience. He was concerned for others and as he knew of Jesus’ love for the least, so he saw his role as a follower of Jesus to care for others too. Of primary concern for Arthur was the widespread drunkenness among his fellow Irishmen. At that time the primary alcoholic beverages of choice were whiskey and gin, both of which were cheap and high in alcoholic content. This meant getting drunk was extremely easy. Arthur’s heart was grieved by the social ills that drunkenness had created and so he prayed that God would provide a solution. What makes Guinness unique is that in praying this prayer he was also willing to be part of the answer to that prayer if God would so choose to use him.
Guinness was an entrepreneur who, in 1759, decided to lease a poorly maintained and equipped brewer (St. James Gate in Dublin) for nine thousand years. What he would brew here was a beer, a drink relatively unknown in rural Ireland at the time, that was lower in alcoholic content (at least lower than their whiskey and Gin) and which was so thick that a person could only drink so many pints of it. Thus Guinness beer was born. The beer is like a meal, it is full of tons of minerals and other trace elements that makes it fairly healthy. And since it was so thick and filling getting drunk off of it was a bit more difficult. Interestingly, public drunkenness did decrease after Guinness had made its biggest impressions on the general populace.
Some will contend that no beer is good, and they would certainly be entitled to their opinion. Some have had such bad experiences with alcohol or with alcoholics that they will never give on this issue, and we must be sensitive to such friends. Nonetheless, whether you’re a drinker or not there is something we can learn from someone like Arthur Guinness.
Most likely none of us will have a 250 year old legacy (unless of course CAPC lasts that long), but we can all think like young Arthur. When Arthur leased St. James Gate he was only 34 years old, hardly a seasoned saint. But he had learned well from Jesus that Christians are to love others. Maybe you won’t solve the problem of public drunkenness in your town, but whatever problems you feel burdened by make sure you don’t simply pray about them. Be willing to be part of the solution to those problems, and in so doing share the love of Jesus.
So if you are a drinker, this week raise a pint to Jesus in thanks for Arthur. If not, take time simply to reflect on what he did. And all of us need to ask God, “How can I be the answer to something you want to do in my community?”