For me, the subject of wine can be effectively utilized as an appropriate metaphor for living the Christian life. For example, one way to judge a wine is by its distinct varietal character.
When a wine that has been made from a single variety of grape, a cabernet for example, presents its inherent grape aromas in a straightforward, clear and focused way, it is said to have varietal character.
I love how the members of the wine tribe tend to go a little overboard when describing a wine’s varietal character. For example, a chardonnay is described as buttery, chewy, fruity, smoky. One buttery flavored chardonnay was described as, “It tastes like the curves of Marilyn Monroe.” Or, a cabernet might be described as licorice, coconut, chocolate, leather, a cigar box, or a dash of expresso.
Not all wine is good right. Bad wines have been described as having the nose of a wet dog, or old running shoes. I saw one reviewer disgustedly dismiss one wine with a diatribe of insults that included the phrase “dirty underwear.” For some reason, my editor deleted this descriptive from the first draft of Wine and the Word.
As we live out our own lives I think it is important to ask – What is our varietal character? How might our spouse, child, co-worker or neighbor describe us using such terminology? – Would our descriptors include a whiff of self centeredness or the unpleasant aroma of a short temper? Or perhaps, there is an overwhelming smell of material pursuit, while only a faint detection of concern for others.
The question becomes, what actions, rituals, habits, can we incorporate in our lives in order to enhance our varietal character? Will our neighbors note the pleasing aroma of faith in action as we deliver dinner down the street to a family who recently suffered a loss? Does a co-worker notice anything different about our words or our behavior because we call ourselves Christian?
Are we comfortable with our children imitating what we say and do? When we are completely honest with ourselves these can be very uncomfortable questions
Because of sin we will never enjoy a perfect varietal character. However, because we are forgiven, every day is an opportunity to improve and be of service to others. Because we are forgiven our varietal character can be clothed with the fruits of the Spirit – love, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control.