Enjoying Pure Pleasure
I have found that most people fall into one of two categories when it comes to pleasure. There are the “pleasure avoiders” – the ascetics – the abstemious – those who believe that pleasure is bad or dangerous or in some cases “sinful.” They may not actually use the word sinful, but they hove in this general direction. The second category of people is the “pleasure seekers” – the hedonists – the epicureans - the indulgent, those who love pleasure more than God. Both errors must be avoided. The NT condemns both extremes strongly and clearly.
The place to begin (and end) any discussion about pleasure is with the Person of God. God created everything – everything – everything – and he did so for our enjoyment (I Timothy 6:17). “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof!” Paul shouts in the context of “eating and drinking to the glory of God” (I Corinthians 10, passim). So we are encouraged to make pleasure an important part of our daily lives. Failure to do so disparages the goodness of the Creator (and creates a host of other problems Thomas discusses in his work). BUT (or should I say AND) we do not worship pleasure; we worship the Creator of Pleasure. Every pleasure in this world is “from him and through him and to him.” All of life is from his creative hand. All of life is through his grace. All of life is to be directed to his praise.
Pleasure avoiders and pleasure seekers are both wrong. Both errors are dangerous; both have slain their tens of thousands. Pleasure avoiders sometimes end up in all kinds of “sinful pleasure.” (I have been witness to it many, many times.) Pleasure seekers often end up loving soccer, the boat, the car, money, sex, food, or any number of good things more than God. (Haven’t we all seen it?!) If you want to wrestle with these ideas, I highly commend to you Gary Thomas’ excellent work, Pure Pleasure: Why Do Christians Feel So Bad About Feeling God? Reading this book for me was absolutely pure pleasure. May we remember the words of a first century pastor:
“Wine maketh glad the heart of man, and oil (lotion or perfume) exhilarates, and food strengthens him.” But all are to be used with moderation, as being the gifts of God. “For who shall eat or who shall drink without Him? For if anything be beautiful, it is His; and if anything be good, it is His.”
- Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch (d. 96 AD)
May the pleasure that comes from God lead us to know him more and worship him with greater joy!