Friday, January 18, 2008

Jesus and fun

Jesus and fun? Aren't those mutually exclusive concepts?

During the early years of my Christian faith, I belonged to a house church that advised its members to give up TV, get rid of "secular" records, and stop celebrating holidays (even birthdays), among other things. I sold a bunch of LPs that I wish I still had. I even practically gave away my guitar -- a beautiful 12-string Giannini -- because it was "evil." We thought we were following the teaching of the ascetics, who said that spirituality is something you achieve by withdrawing from the world and refraining from things that bring "worldly" pleasure.

Granted, some things should be avoided (Christian TV, for example). But the idea that Jesus prohibits fun is not Biblical.

Think about the story in John 2 about the time Jesus attended a wedding feast and changed water into wine. I'm preaching on that this Sunday. Several things impress me about Jesus in that story. The most obvious thing is, he attended a party. I suspect these parties could get out of hand. They could last as long as a week, historians tell us. At this particular wedding party, a lot of wine must have been served because they ran out -- an unthinkable thing in those days. The host could be sued by the families of the bride and groom for not providing enough wine. Yet you don't see Jesus getting upset about all that drinking. In fact, he creates MORE much as 180 gallons of it!

(Make no mistake, the Bible condemns drunkenness. But not drinking per se.)

Jesus must have attended a lot of parties similar to this one, because one of the things his detractors started calling him was "a glutton and a drunkard" (Matthew 11:19). He went to a lot of dinners to which tax collectors and sinners were invited. These had to be fun affairs. As James M. Boice puts it, "Jesus was always welcome among those who were having a good time."

In the Bible, wine often symbolizes abundant joy. In fact, the Rabbis taught that "Without wine there is no joy." Psalm 104:15 says that "wine . . . gladdens the heart of man." Wine is mentioned by several Old Testament prophets in connection with the "day of the Lord," when Messiah will come to set things right and redeem a fallen world. Amos talks about wine dripping from the mountains and flowing from all the hills (Amos 9:13). Isaiah talks about a big feast featuring "the best of meats and the finest of wines" (Isaiah 25:6). Zechariah talks about "new wine" making young women healthy and attractive! (Zechariah 9:17).

So it's worth asking: Do Christians have enough fun?

Of course we are not just called to have fun. There are times when we need to "grieve, mourn, and wail" (James 4:9). There are times for work and service and repentance and prayer and worship, and many other things that don't fit the label of "fun." But given the preponderance of Bible verses and stories about celebration in the Bible, I think there's not nearly enough fun in the church today. We should be throwing more parties. (And maybe even dancing!)

Do you agree?


Matthaeus Flexibilis said...
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rob said...

Yes, I suppose Christians can have fun, he said prudishly.

So if they used wine back then, I'm guessing it was red, not white. White needs to be cooled and no one would want to take the time to peel the grapes. So maybe white wine is of the devil and red is of Jesus.

Which makes total sense to me. I love red wine and don't like white. Wow! Thanks, Mike! I feel more Godly already!

(this was a great post, sarcasm and joking aside)

Matthaeus Flexibilis said...
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