Tuesday, February 23, 2010

How Should We Live Life?

How should we approach life? We could live for our immediate pleasure, following every impulse. I call this approach the Party Animal, whose motto is "If it feels good, do it." Scripture puts forth this lifestyle as a contrast to the life of the converted (Ephesians 2:3: Titus 3:3; Romans 13:14). But Christians can sometimes espouse a watered-down form. We follow our own pleasure within some broad limitations. This seems like freedom, but is bondage to our own desires. For this person, the ultimate virtue is joy, which becomes momentary happiness.

The reaction to this is frequently to jump to the opposite extreme. The result is to set up self-control as the ultimate virtue, which produces a disciplined individual with strict rules. I have characterized this as the Tough Guy because it favors being strong for the sake of being strong. If the strength involves moral principles, it looks much better than the party animal from a Christian point of view. But Paul characterizes this position as will-worship and condemns it (Colossians 2:20-23; 1 Timothy 4:2-4; Titus 1:15). Is there another alternative?

Scripture gives the chief virtue as love (Matthew 22:36-40; 1 Corinthians 13:1-3; Romans 13:8-10), love for God and one's neighbor. The result is one who is a worshiper of God and through that a lover of other people (1 Corinthians 10:31; 1 John 4:19-21; John 13:34,35). If we do this, we will rejoice in God and the good things He has done for us (1 Peter 1:8; John 15:11; Philippians 4:4). Also, we will exercise self control, that we may avoid those things that would be violations of the principle of love (1 Corinthians 9:24-27; 1 Timothy 4:7-10; Hebrews 5:14). But both of these are put in perspective by the broader principle of love.

The Tough Guy morality sees all desire as bad; it is based on self-sufficiency. The Party Animal lifestyle follows every desire; it is based on self indulgence. Both are rooted in pride, which is the attempt to put myself first, simply because I am me. Therefore, I ultimately end up putting myself in the place of God (Proverbs 16:18; Genesis 3:4; Isaiah 14:12-14). But Scripture would have us realize we are dependent on God, both as our Creator and our Savior from sin (Acts 17:24-28; James 1:17; Romans 3:23-26). I agree with C. S. Lewis (see "The Weight of Glory;" see also John Piper's "Desiring God") that the problem is not our having desires, but willingness to settle for transient, earthly pleasures rather then pursuing eternal joy. But to do this we must be willing to give up our immediate gratification, not for an illusion of self-reliance, but the greater joy of knowing God and being with Him forever (John 12:24-26; Matthew 16:24-28; Luke 16:9-12). For the goal of a Christian is joy compared to which the joys of this world are but a dream (Psalms 16:11; Isaiah 65:18,19; Revelation 21:4).

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