A few years ago I read, Why Jesus Went to Parties? by Max Lucado.
This is how Max starts the article:
Why would Jesus, on his first journey, take his followers to a party?
Didn’t they have work to do? Didn’t he have principles to teach?
Wasn’t his time limited? How could a wedding fit with his purpose on
Why did Jesus go to the wedding?
The answer? It’s found in the second verse of John 2. “Jesus and his
followers were also invited to the wedding.”
Why did they invite him?
I suppose they liked him.
He then goes on to say that Jesus went to parties–are you ready for this–to have fun! As Chris Farley used to say on SNL, “whoop dee freaking do!” How low has the state of Christian faith in the western world sunk that one of the most prolific writers of our time has to scripturally prove that it is ok for Christians to have fun because Jesus took time to have fun.
I don’t blame Mr. Lucado. At least he is trying to take Christians out of their organizational attitude and get them to enjoy life and have fun just for the sake of fun and not as an end to another church sponsored program. He, like most western Christians, is a victim of reading the Bible through his own eyes.
Let me clarify a few things as one who is from the part of the world Jesus came from.
Please note that according to the Gospel of John, all the books in the world could not contain what Jesus did while on earth. So, to assume that our four gospels contain all that Jesus did is very naïve. In other worlds, in most probability, this was not the first time that Jesus and his disciples were attending a wedding. The only reason John reports this wedding is because this is where Jesus performed his first miracle.
Second, unlike a majority of western Christian teachers who spend most of their time teaching things about God in a didactic style, Jesus lived God before his students, and what better place than a wedding to show his disciples that the Gospel is all about RELATIONSHIP.
Third, Jesus went to the wedding because He was invited. In the Middle East culture, if you live in a small community, as I did in Iran, when someone in the neighborhood gets married, the whole community is invited. Not to invite your neighbors is a sign of disrespect. Unlike so many Christians leaders I know, Jesus went to the wedding with no agenda but to love and respect his neighbors and not looking to see what was in it for him. He went to the wedding to celebrate the new life a couple in his community was about to start.
And finally, Jesus went to the wedding to have fun. He never separated the Gospel from FUN of celebrating life. You have never experienced a true wedding celebration until you attend a Middle Eastern or an Armenian wedding. Where as in an average American evangelical wedding the main focus is on the religious ceremony, in the eastern culture, it is the celebration afterwards that truly is considered to be the wedding. No, you are not given a piece of cake and a cup of punch and sent home. Maybe, that’s because we don’t separate a wedding into a religious ceremony and a secular celebration. To us, the whole thing is about celebration.
Where did we, Christians, lose it? “How could we,” as one of my old professors at the seminary used to say, “take the most joyous religion in the world (Judaism) and turn it into boring western Christianity?” I know, historically, there are many reasons why we got to where we are today, but that is not the subject of this article.
I am sorry to say that within a few years of leaving Islam to follow Christ, I became one of those Christians who forgot how to celebrate life. I was too busy trying to make a church grow to have fun. I thought to enjoy life while there were so many hurting people around me was not godly. Today I regret spending so many years of my life not having more fun.
All our married life (33 years), my wife, Karen, wanted to learn how to Swing dance. Although I was never against dancing and was probably the only Iranian pastor who always wanted to incorporate dancing as a part of worship, I just could not bring myself to take lessons in Swing. For some reason, I was taught that my enjoyment of life should always involve some kind of religious activity and Swing certainly was not in that category. After all, where is Swing mentioned in the Bible?
My attitude towards life has changed drastically in the last 10 years. Little by little I had to admit to myself that one of the reasons I so often feel out of step with my western leaders is because of my up bringing in Iran. I came to realize how much of the corporate culture of America has crept into the church and has become a part of our Christian life; the culture that demands every action of one’s life to be navigated by its outcome. Everything in life has to be goal oriented. Any more, our best pastors and Christian leaders are not those who necessarily had much passion for people, but organizers with great administrative gifts. Next time you meet a pastor in his office, take a quick look at what he/she keeps in his/her library. Don’t be surprised to see the number of books that are about administration, organizations and goal setting. After all, Capitalism teaches that there should be a return for your investments. You shouldn’t do something just for the sake of doing it. There has to be a positive and tangible return for your efforts, otherwise, as my ex-leader called me, “You are an airhead.”
I can’t tell you the delight and the freedom I experienced when reading Simon Tuglwell’s, the Beatitudes. In dealing with Matt. 5:4, Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth, he makes these life liberating remarks:
…Does it really make sense to say that God ‘has a purpose’ in what He does? God is his own purpose. And in that He is entirely sufficient to himself… God acts without a reason…If we are to be and to act like God, if we are to appreciate the act of God, we must come to appreciate the point of pointlessness, the joy of unnecssariness. We must learn to pay due attentions to the satisfaction there is sometimes in just doing something for its own sake, and not bias our view of life too much in the direction of those things which are always a struggle and which are always justifiable in terms of some solemn intention.
I will never forget the amount of shock and disbelief I experienced several years ago when a dear friend told me she had taken motorcycle lessons at her local CHP office to learn how to ride a motorcycle. “But you don’t even own a bike.” I said and asked; “Why did you do it?” “Just because,” she responded.
What does any of this have to do with me celebrating life today? Well, to get there, I need to set the stage. I got an iPod for my birthday this past June. I had just downloaded Santana’s first album when I went to work on the front yard. As I began to listen to the album, something came upon me.
Was it the Latin beat of the music, the fact that the song took me back to over 30 years ago when my faith was simple and my theology nonexistent, the days when I was naïve enough to trust my leadership as those who were put in their position to serve God’s people and not their own personal ambitions, the days when I trusted my tithe money to go towards spreading the Gospel in the world and not being wasted on remodeling an unneeded church office at the tune of $600,000, the time when I thought the measure of a man was in his Christ likeness and not the size of his church or how many books he has written, or maybe all of the above? Whatever it was, it made me want to dance and I did.
I took the shovel, just like Fred Astaire did with the hat rack in one of his movies, and began to do the Salsa with it. I didn’t care what the neighbors or passersby thought. I wanted to love the moment for no reason. I wanted to dance just because. I didn’t need a mandate or scripture to justify myself in the fact that I finally listened to Karen and four years ago started taking dance lessons.