Why do special occasions seem to provide people, even Christians, with a supposed license to sin? We see it in movies, popularizing wedding Hangovers and among Bridesmaids and Wedding Singers: Or closer to home, the uncle who drinks too much at family gatherings. It feels like holidays, when boiled down to reality, become nothing more than occasions to indulge for so many.
I’m not prude, and I realize Jesus turned water into wine for wedding guests. But I don’t think he was condoning over-doing it as a form of celebration. Think about it with me, here is a quick list of occasions that our culture has glamorized with not-so special behaviors, giving us a mysterious hall pass from morality:
- Big game beer fests and tailgating.
- Bachelor and bachelorette parties featuring strip joints, excessive drinking and in some cases, prostitution.
- Valentine’s Day that virtually promotes sexual activity before marriage.
- St. Patrick’s Day, a saint celebration, turned into a reason to drink too much Irish whiskey, green beer and other green libations.
- Thanksgiving gluttony.
- Cinco de Mayo, fiesta with tequila.
- Fourth of July celebrates freedom with freedom to party hearty.
- Graduations and promotion celebrations -- moving up and letting your hair down.
- Halloween hi-jinx give people an excuse to eat too much candy and act out of character by pretending to be one -- from sexy costumes to evil icons.
- Birthdays parties designed to forget your age.
- Reunions that bring back the “good ol’ days.”
- Celebrating big game wins, accomplishments with the attitude that you work hard, play hard.
- Spring and summer breaks have become breaks from morality.
We often justify these occasions by giving ourselves an extra measure of grace, which can turn into over indulgence, gluttony and debauchery.
The Bible clearly calls out these behaviors. God wants us to have a sound, sober mind to help protect us from the enemy, as written in I Peter 5:8. Our bodies are considered temples of God according to I Corinthians 6:19 and we should offer our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God, Romans 12:1.
God wants us to celebrate and enjoy the blessings He’s giving us, but in a way that honors Him and each other with self-control. Remember all good things come from God. Good foods, good wine, good friends, good progress, good character.
When you go into these celebrations, don’t leave Jesus behind. Go into special occasions as a lighthouse, being a properly calibrated ambassador among people who do not share your faith.
10 Ways to Make Special Occasions Special
- Reminisce past experiences (Philippians 4:8)
- Make the meal the hero. Savor the flavors and experience of a unique restaurant.
- Take in the ambience and the moment of a unique venue.
- Enjoy LIVE music and dance joyfully.
- Capture the moments with photography.
- Catch up with people, finding out what’s really going on in their lives.
- Recognize people for their efforts in fun ways, and unique awards. Propose a toast, with the purpose of giving a blessing, instead of a healthy pour.
- Respectful roasting with humor, served up in grace and love. Use storytelling to recap significant moments.
- Think of what can I give or bring, rather than what can I get out of this occasion?
- Celebrate with a new tradition. Think of activities that get the guys (or gals) moving, i.e. hiking, ski trips, pick-up basketball games, beach bonfires.
Practical Tips for a Sober Celebration
- BYOB - Bring your own beverage (alcohol-free) or healthy dishes.
- Don’t arrive in a state of HALT. Recognize your vulnerability when you are Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired.
- Flee temptation, and that may mean skipping the event. But you can substitute the event by organizing your own with a healthy crowd, healthy environment that allows for a less hazy, and memorable experience.
- Think about how you want to feel the next day. Would your behavior make you or Jesus proud? Would it be what you want to be doing if he returned unannounced?
- Ask God to show you how to have fun. We’re used to allowing the world to tell us how to have fun. But what if we asked Him? He created laughter, and He told us he would give us abundant life, so why not ask Him?
Remember, God is not a kill-joy and following Him is not a drag. Sometimes we need to say no to say yes. Perhaps the hardest times to follow Him are during the celebrations of life when the world is saying, “treat yourself, have more.” But remember Jesus said in John 6:35, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”
*As the founder and president of Every Man Ministries, Kenny Luck’s experience as the men’s pastor at Saddleback Church helped him to create the blueprint for a men’s ministry. Tools, tips, and resources are at men’s fingertips with the Sleeping Giant program. Watch Kenny’s teachings at EveryManMinistries.com.