Monday, 20 February 2012

God, why are you such a Killjoy?

It’s a popular image of God, isn’t it? God is anti-alcohol, anti-sex, anti-smoking, anti-freedom, anti-fun. In fact God is the ultimate killjoy and Christians well they are repressed, miserable and boring living their lives in shades of grey.

It may surprise you but the Bible engages with that sort of wrong thinking about God and records it consequences. The first lie ever told was that God is a killjoy. God created a perfect world for humanity to live in – no pain, no suffering, no arguments, no struggles, in short a world that was perfect that was marked out by joy and enjoyment. A world so perfect that even work was fun! God made enjoyment, God made us for enjoyment.

But Satan came and whispered that first lie (Gen 3)suggesting to Eve that God didn’t love her, that God who had given them everything to enjoy in a perfect world was out to curb their enjoyment of it by having one rule about not eating of one tree in the whole world. God doesn’t really love you he is holding you back, that is what Satan says, he is stopping you really being free. It’s that same question we find ourselves asking – Is God a killjoy?

As we look to answer that today I want to begin by looking at the world.

The Character of God as Creator and Father
God made a world that is enjoyable and full of fun and laughter; your sense of humour, the things about creation you love, the things about other people you love, that moment when you score the winning goal, or scale that rock face God made everyone one of those and made us to enjoy them. God isn’t a killjoy he is the designer of fun and he is a loving father who wants us to enjoy life at its best.

But I guess the question will come back; So why all the rules? Rules curb freedom don’t they? Rules limit fun? If God isn’t a killjoy why does he give us loads of rules?

But what if God isn’t limiting our freedom and fun but enabling us to enjoy life to the maximum possible. What if the rules are a sign of love? I’ve got four boys at home and I love them, I want them to love life, to have fun. Often on a Saturday afternoon the oldest 2 will come to the watch the rugby with me, or we will have a wrestling match, or last week we went sledging, built snow men, built a toboggan run in the garden and saw how high we could jump on the sledge off snow ramps. It’s pretty obvious at those times that I want them to enjoy life!

But what about the times when I am limiting their freedom – for example we have a log burning stove at home and it gets incredibly hot – so around it is a fire guard and they know they must never touch the fire. Do I put that fireguard and rule in place because I love them or because I don’t? I limit their freedom in order to protect them and to enable them to really enjoy life rather than go through it scarred and in pain.

We know that is how good fathers operate and the Bible tells us that God is a good father, in fact God is such a good father that even our best fathers can’t compare to him. Just think about those rules God gives for life for a minute. “Do not murder” you can see God’s love in that law can’t you, no-one argues that is limiting my freedom. Or “Do not steal” again a good way to live. You can see how living like that is the best way to live.

But what about God’s teaching on sex; Does God limit my freedom, in fact lets go one stage further does God hate sex?

God doesn’t hate sex, in fact God created sex, God created us to enjoy sex to be stimulated. In fact God doesn’t hate sex he has a far higher view of sex than society does. Our society says sex is cheap, sex is just a biological act, it’s just sharing fluids, or it’s a marketing tool, it sells stuff. But God says he has designed it to be so much more special than that, in fact sex is so important that it has a context in which it is best enjoyed, marriage between and man and a woman. Like that fireguard designed to protect.

The bible teaches us that sex is a key part of marriage, it is a way for a man and wife to enjoy each other to give themselves to each other, to be vulnerable to each other and get to know each other intimately. In fact it is the means of two becoming one flesh – that isn’t the Spice Girls idea that is God’s idea.

It’s a bit like a piece of duct tape, it is incredibly sticky, if I stuck it to your arm it would stay there. What would happen when I pulled it off, it would hurt but it would come off your arm, what if I stuck it to someone-else’s arm it would stick but be less painful when I pulled it off. What if I stuck it to another, and another, and another. Each time it would become less sticky, until eventually it wouldn’t stick at all.

That is a picture of what sex is like, it is designed to be a means of openness, intimacy and vulnerability between two people, but you can’t keep on becoming vulnerable to different people soon sex becomes meaningless, it becomes less than what God in love designed it to be at its best. It just becomes shallow, unfulfilling sex rather than a means of building vulnerability, intimacy and relationship.

Even here God’s instructions are loving, he is not killing joy he is protecting it for us. God is a loving heavenly father who designed us and the world to bring us enjoyment but who wants us to make the most of that enjoyment.

God is the creator of joy and a loving heavenly father, he is not a killjoy, here’s the second thing;

Jesus shows us what God is like
I want to apologise if you have met Church goers who have given you the impression that God is anti-fun. I have to say that I have too. But don’t judge God by them, some people are just boring that isn’t uniquely Christian. You may have just met people who were boring before they became Christians. The person to look at if you want to know what God is really like is Jesus.

And Jesus is anything but boring. His first miracle might surprise you, it is to turn water at a wedding in Cana into 150gallons of the best wine, Jesus acts to keep the party going not stop it! And as you read the gospels you see he gets invited to the best parties and meals with everyone from prostitutes to tax collectors – the bankers of their day, in fact the religious people of his day are scandalised by his behaviour because they disapprove of his partying.

And he doesn’t kill the party, he isn’t sat in the corner nursing a coke and looking disapprovingly at everyone else he is very much the centre of attention. Here’s what Jesus said he came to do: “I have come that they may have life, and have life to the full.” In fact he will die for us so that we can have life because we know God as a loving father, and he will show us God’s loving fatherly plan for our lives lived to the full.

The Kingdom of God is like a feast
Jesus also talks about the future and he describes life lived in God’s kingdom as being like a feast, like a party. He describes the angels partying in heaven when people become part of God’s kingdom. And the Bible describes eternity not as clouds, harps, choirs and tedium, but as a relation and laughter filled enjoyment of a perfect world!

Don’t believe the lie that God is a killjoy; God made you for enjoyment, he created you to really enjoy life. Jesus comes to start the party, to enable us to know God as our father. But he also comes to highlight that we have made good things ultimate things – sex, alcohol, laughter all good things made by God for us to enjoy. But they are not ultimate things, they are not meant to give life its meaning rather they point to a loving heavenly Father in whom we can find really satisfaction, real joy.

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