Why is joy and happiness so rarely found? We live in relative luxury compared to most people in the world yet we are not happy.
Oddly, folks living a life of faith are often just as unhappy and unjoyful as the rest. That seems odd to me. What's the deal?
This week's text highlights a few different groups of people that I believe were asking for permission from The Lord to enjoy their faith life...they wondered if it was ok to be a person of faith and to be happy.
Read our text again from Mark 2:18-22 (with Matt 9:14-17 and Luke 5:33-39 in parenthesis):
Once when John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting, some people (the disciples of John the Baptist) came to Jesus and asked, “Why don’t your disciples fast like John’s disciples and the Pharisees do?” (Why are your disciples always eating and drinking?)
Jesus replied, “Do wedding guests fast (mourn) while celebrating with the groom? Of course not. They can’t fast while the groom is with them. But someday the groom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast...
Yes, they wondered if they were 'doing the right thing?' and yes they wondered 'why Jesus' followers were different?'. I believe one of the main reasons they wondered this is because they saw them eating and drinking while they were fasting (and probably in sackcloth and ashes). These followers of Jesus seemed to be enjoying life...maybe even enjoying it too much!
Wow, I wish that followers of Jesus were so happy and joyful that they might be accused of having 'too much fun'...not in any inappropriate ways...just because they were tearing down all the stereotypes. What stereotypes you ask? Similar to 2000 years ago, most folks think/thought:
1. God Stuff is serious business...don't you dare crack a smile. Sure, God is over all so it makes sense to be serious as we approach Him. Good. There is a difference between seriousness and sucking on a lemon! Read the Jesus stories in our Scriptures. I do not think you will read about a lemon-sucker.
2. We get closer to God by denying ourselves...that includes denying ourselves joy/happiness. Self-denial is certainly part of the Christian faith (Matthew 16:24). This doesn't mean to deny yourself happiness. It means to deny yourself sin. If sin equates to happiness in your mind then you have a bigger issue to deal with.
3. Sit down, shut up, listen and be a good boy/girl. This is what we communicate very often in our churches and in our faith life. To be a good Christian you need to be a good spectator. This is amazingly counter-productive to a life of faith. Faith = Action = contentment and joy (happiness). Therefore, we are robbing people of the opportunity to find happiness in their faith life when we push them into a seat to 'get their fill' and do not allow other opportunities.
4. Religious rituals/traditions should be performed with a sour face and a reverent heart so we can show our sorrow for our sinfulness. Reverence is needed in our lives. When we look at Holy God then we should revere Him. However, why must reverence be shown by displeasure? That seems absolutely opposite of a natural reaction. Yes, there are many Bible examples of showing sorrow for our sin and bowing in reverence before God (both of these are good things). But, we serve a living God who gave the ultimate sacrifice so our sin would be forgiven. I can't even type that without smiling.
Is it ok to be a happy Christian. I would say that it is not ok not to be a happy Christian. Whether you are fasting, participating in lent or doing some other thing...find joy, pleasure and happiness in your closeness to your Creator and Savior. Warning - you might stick out in a crowd!