A Happy Church is a Healthy Church?
- Monday, August 17, 2009
A recent conversation with one of our Centurions reminded me of just how off course the contemporary Church has become.
But many of the priests and Levites and heads of fathers' houses, old men who had seen the first house, wept with a loud voice when they saw the foundation of this house being laid, though many shouted aloud for joy... (Ezra 3:12)
Patrick Tiedt was telling me about an event he participated in one evening not long ago. It was called something like "God's Game Day." Adult believers came together to play games unto the Lord—board games, bouncy games, parlor games—all kinds of games. There was a purpose to the evening, of course. At the end the pastor spoke to the people in attendance and told them, "What we want you always to bear in mind is that God wants you to be happy."
There it is: God wants us to be happy. Being a Christian must be all fun and games or we just don't really understand what the life of following Jesus is all about. God wants us to be happy. Hmmm. I wonder if that really is the message the Man of Sorrows wants us to take as the operating motif of our discipleship.
The role of affections
This is an important question because affections play such a powerful role in our lives. In the Scriptures, affections are associated with the heart, and the heart is regarded as the wellspring of human life, as both Solomon and Jesus testify (Proverbs 4:23; Matthew 12:34).
Affections, as Jonathan Edwards explained so well in A Treatise Concerning Religious Affections, include our feelings, attitudes, hopes, aspirations, longings, and dreams. They run the gamut from sorrow, fear, doubt, dread, anger, hatred, indifference, love, joy, peace, hope, and boldness. Each of these has a place in the life of faith. Even such "negative" affections as hatred and anger are appropriate in their proper place (Psalms 97:10; Ephesians 4:26). The affections we nurture in our souls motivate the actions we perform in the Name of Jesus. What we are in our daily walk with the Lord is largely shaped by the affections we nurture in our souls.
If the main affection the Christian is to sustain is happiness, as GameBoy Pastor insisted, then what does this imply? At the very least it implies that affections which are the opposite of this are not proper, and should not feature in our lives as followers of Jesus. From this perspective, Jesus does not want us to know sorrow. We need not linger in sorrow—because of our sins, or the tragedy of sin in the lives of others.
Rather, whenever such negative affections beset us, it's time to break out the Monopoly board and play our way back to happiness. There is no excuse for Christians ever hating anything, since hate will wear us down and eat away at our souls. So don't hate your sins; accept them as normal and look to Jesus to receive you just the way you are. Then you'll be happy again (especially if that look to Jesus is accompanied by a triple-word score).
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