On September 21, 2011

You’ve Got to Fight For Your Right…

So this set of blog posts kind of goes hand in hand with the previous ones I’ve written for the past few weeks. And here’s what I mean by that.

According to James Hunter, the landscape of American politics have shaped and captured the identity and imagination of most of Western Christianity. We think often in terms of changing the world to ensure that it reflects our image on the culture. So we lobby and posture to gain credibility and influence in politics, meanwhile history proves that there are much more effective ways to enact change. And they’re a lot more fun. And a lot closer to the Gospel story.

Because at the heart of the Gospel is a story about a God who is reconciling all parts of Creation back to Himself. The young and old, the rich and poor, the oppressed and the oppressor are all going to be a part of the new thing that God is doing in the age to come. There is not a single sin or a single sinner who is beyond the scope of God’s grace.

And that’s why they call it good news.

In Luke 14 and 15, within the course of two chapters there are nine different parties mentioned. They are celebrating lost things being found, separated people being reconciled, they are eating and playing music and dancing, all to the tune of the Kingdom of God. But…If you were to just read the Gospel of Luke, and then walk into your average American church you might be a bit confused.

You might find yourself wondering things like where are the feasts? Or the dancing, or for that matter, the sinners?

I read about a survey recently that asked Americans what they thought when they heard the word “Chocolate Cake” or “Heavy Cream” When the average American heard Chocolate Cake, they immediately thought “guilt,” when they heard the words Heavy Cream they immediately thought “Unhealthy.”

But then the same survey was done with the French, and they had a very different take on these words.  When French people heard Heavy Cream they thought “Whipped” and when they heard Chocolate Cake they thought, “celebration.”

In other words, when Americans think of parties and celebrations they think almost immediately of guilt. They feel bad for celebrating. But that is a foreign idea to the writers of Scripture.

Isaiah expects the consummation of all things to be a party banquet. In the book of 1st Kings, Solomon throws a party that last 14 days, and he provided the money, wine and food for it (He was loaded). The book of Leviticus is actually a party planning manual, albeit a rather boring version of one. The Bible is filled with God telling His people in a variety of ways to celebrate. But for some reasons most Christians, at least American Christians, feel a tug of guilt whenever they do.

But that’s a shame, because what they are actually trying to prevent is the exact thing that they are perpetuating.

Biblical celebration is never about hedonism. It’s always rooted in a deep hope for God’s preferred future and a deep joy for God’s activity in the past. Celebration in the Bible is rooted in the belief that God is good and so is His Creation. But when our churches are anemic from celebration than our bent is to find anything remotely worth partying about.

In his book, The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis writes in the voice on an uncle demon coaching his nephew demon on how to entice people away from the LORD, and look specifically at some of his more profound “advice.”

“Never forget that when we are dealing with any pleasure in its healthy and normal and satisfying form, we are, in a sense, on the Enemy’s ground. I know we have won many a soul through pleasure. All the same, it is His invention, not ours. He made the pleasures: all our research so far has not enabled us to produce one. All we can do is to encourage the humans to take the pleasures which our Enemy has produced, at times, or in ways, or in degrees, which He has forbidden.”

God has given us much to celebrate. And yes there is time to dance and a time to mourn, but each season has it’s rightful place, but what we’ve seem to have done is a lukewarm mixture of both. The spirit of Despair is so easy to give into. Cynicism is the currency that we deal in, and Christians are no different. So I would like to suggest that churches pay attention to this more as a spiritual discipline. Because the Kingdom of God has come and is coming.

The future of God’s reality is really really good news. And celebration is God’s way of orienting ourselves around that here and now.

Churches are at there best when they can show the world what a real party looks like.

 

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  • http://neilreynolds.wordpress.com Neil Reynolds

    Great stuff, man!