Christianity is serious business, right?
Jesus says we have to give up everything to be His disciples, and that’s going to mean getting persecuted and carrying a cross (Luke 14:33; Matthew 5:11; and Luke 9:23).
So, drastic measures are necessary. Go ahead and circle the wagons. Keep your head down. Suck it up, people. Let’s prepare for imminent martyrdom. Put on sackcloth. Sit in ashes. Skip all pleasures. Grit your teeth. Furrow your brow. Let’s hunker down and get seriously disciplish.
Who’s with me?
I’m sure a lot of you actually are, in important ways. And let me be clear: Yes, the world will hate us. The first step to new life is our own death. Becoming more like Jesus is like dying every day.
What in the world have we gotten into here?
I don’t say these things lightly. When we were living in South Africa, we went with our Zulu church to an Easter conference. Friends rode in the back of our truck with blankets to protect against the early morning cold. We slept on thin foam mattresses on concrete. There were no stores near the church—just a big communal meal for all 300 people. The fasting and loud intercessory prayer seemed to go all night (but, honestly, I went to bed).
It felt like a guerilla force. If we’re on a mission, let’s act like it, we thought. In contrast, I think the North American Church often misses the hard calls of the Bible, and by a long shot.
But this also gets corrupted. It leads to a sick competition for who has it rougher. It leads to burnout and grumpy Christians. I picture a scowling face asking, “Would you like to know Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior?”
I think God wants us to have more fun.
But let’s make clear what fun isn’t. It’s not at the expense of others. It’s not lewd. Fun doesn’t forget the hard calls on us as followers of Jesus. It doesn’t downplay the epic, eternal story we’re in. Fun is not escaping from reality—it’s entering in more fully.
First off (literally) is creation. Seriously, God must have giggled while making the giraffe, the platypus, the lantern fish and papaya trees. Dr. Suess has nothing on reality. I think creation itself must have been a lot of fun, and in some way, our joy in art must arise from this.
Plus, there are commands to celebrate:
Be joyful at your festival—you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, and the Levites, the foreigners, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns. 15 For seven days celebrate the festival to the Lord your God at the place the Lord will choose. For the Lord your God will bless you in all your harvest and in all the work of your hands, and your joy will be complete. (Deuteronomy 16:14-15)
So, God commands celebration. Celebrations are generally fun. By the transitive property of funness, God commands fun. And we read in Ecclesiastes 3 that there’s a time to laugh, which gives a general nod to fun.
God loves music, too. The Psalms are full of commands to praise God with music. To make sure piano and cello lessons don’t get dull in our family, we recite Psalm 33:3 at the top of our lungs. “Sing to the Lord a new song; play skillfully, and SHOUT FOR JOY!!!” (I’m sure that verse was meant to have several exclamation points.)
Elsewhere, David wrote, “You will fill me with joy in your presence” (Psalm 16:11). Are we characterized by joy? Perhaps if we loosened up a bit, we would be.
But as usual, the real clincher is Jesus.
Paul wrote: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20). And in 2 Corintians 4:8-11, we read, “We are hard-pressed on every side … For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body.”
The question becomes, What is this Jesus like who supposedly lives within you? What might it look like for Jesus to be “revealed in our mortal body”?
First of all, Jesus celebrated, too. In fact, maybe He celebrated too much. You know that He turned water into wine and later was accused of being a glutton and a drunkard (Matthew 11:19). In truth, I wish He were coming to our party this weekend. “Fire up the grill! Tap the keg! Jesus is here! Crank it up!”
Jesus was at banquets all the time with both tax collectors and Pharisees. Really, can you imagine being at a party with lots of food and wine and not having fun with Him?
He also said, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:30). Are we living out of that?
My friend James Miriago from Kenya is the best picture I’ve ever seen of this. He was our student at the seminary we taught at in South Africa, and we visited his home in Kenya. His home has dirt floors. He invested an incredible amount of money to get to South Africa to study the Bible. He regularly wanders by foot to other countries without money, in order to tell people about Jesus.
But the man has on Jesus’ yoke, and it is easy. James constantly wears a smile bigger than many of us have every produced—even when our bus stalled in a Nairobi traffic jam for two hours and we all had to pee.
So get your smile on.
If we have fun, we will follow Jesus better, we will know him more, we will be more effective in our service to Him and the world.
As we pursue the adventure in the everyday, try to make every day amazing in some way. Sometimes it’s noticing something small, and sometimes it’s really stretching for something. It could be eating a pizza with a guy living on the street, sharing faith with a professor or throwing a goofy party.
In any case, it’s a lot of fun.
The Jeskes have lived lots of amazing days in Nicaragua, China, South Africa, and the U.S. The latest book is This Ordinary Adventure: Settling Down Without Settling. @ChristineJeske is getting a Ph.D. in anthropology at the University of Wisconsin, and @AdamJeske leads social media for InterVarsity and the Urbana Student Missions Conference. Connect at Into the Mud and Executing Ideas.