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In many traditional cultures, having “fun” is a sign that you’re up to no-good. It’s not evil in itself, but it comes very close. In Confucian cultures, a life filled with delight and laughter is frowned upon…because somehow that laughter is aligned with wickedness or sin of some sort. Christians from these traditions value seriousness and suffering, “blessed are those who mourn…” I propose that misunderstands Jesus’ teaching: it doesn’t say “blessed are those who are blessed by God but insist on living miserable lives…” But blessed are those who mourn – because God will make it better, and one day they will rejoice! The goal is rejoicing, not self inflicted mourning.
So one subject that comes up often around Asian Christians is the sin of having too much fun – or playing too much. We call it “making an idol” of something. So do you like to play golf? “Beware of making an idol of golf.” Do you like good food? “Beware of making an idol of food!” Do you love a person? “Beware of making an idol of a loved one!”
Of course real idolatry doesn’t work that way. Beneath the Confucian ethic is the idea that one is saved by a life sacrificing personal joy for the sake of the greater good. By giving up these fun things in life you earn your way to heaven. One Christians explained it this way: “Which would you rather have – years of fun on the golf course followed by an eternity of hell, or give it all up and go to heaven?” As though one could atone for one’s sins by simply giving up golf!
The Gospel is that Jesus (and not your sacrifice) atones for your sins. And while believing that and following Him means you must leave your sins behind – it does NOT mean you have to sacrificially leave fun and food and music and recreation behind. This kind of teaching has the appearance of wisdom, calling for sacrifice, but it actually denies the power of Jesus’ Gospel. And I believe it has hurt the church and hurt our message… Asking people to give up what God never asked – while inadvertently distracting people from what they should really be doing.
God is not asking you to give up on having fun… He’s asking you to follow Jesus: To learn from him, while doing the things he did and commanded… To do work that is meaningful and contributes to people’s lives in some way. To do your “ministry” – the work that God has for you… And as we do this to enjoy the good things He brings us along the way…