Friday, 7 March 2008

Swim against the tide of fun

"Have fun!" I've often used that as a well-wishing comment. Seldom seriously meant it: more often I've meant, "I hope what you're heading to will be helpful, or enjoyable, or even painful but good for you in the long run." But I've said, "Have fun!"

Our culture militates against taking life seriously. It's one of the serious crimes against British sensibility (cf. Watching the English) - to appear too serious, too much in earnest. People start squirming, a little embarassed, feeling that such enthusiasm for things of import should be locked up somewhere. We know too much to be engagedly committed to ideals. To spend time and effort taking life seriously. We know that our ideals are broken, our previous idols smashed, or philosophies found wanting, our religion dead. We know that our lives are meaningless, our history bunk, our politics mindless and our character predetermined by biological, social and economic factors. We're either patronisingly amused or admiringly puzzled by American political zeal. We know from our neighbours that plus ça change... So we take up with the rest, in mind-numbing media, utilitarian education, and short-fix comfort government, to fill our ears, eyes, bodies and hearts with light relief.

I've found myself recently, when home tired at the end of the day, relaxing to the sound of BBC 7 repeats of radio comedy taking the Mick out of the news, while playing Minesweeper. Light relief. Satirising events in the news may help take life less seriously, but I don't think that's our main problem. Certainly my problem, tuned in to radio satire while numbing my tired mind at the end of a day, is not that I take the world or myself too seriously, but that I don't take God seriously enough.

Listening to better things this morning: Piper on Romans 2.6-10, from 1998 -

I feel such a burden for us as a church to swim against the tide of almost every current in our culture. More and more and more, America is a nation given over to play. The industries of play are huge! Houses are built today with entertainment centers. Computers and videos and television and stereo all coordinate to give us ever more stimulating and captivating distractions from the realities of the world. When we need to be dreaming, for the glory of Christ, about how to spend our lives alleviating ignorance and sickness and misery and lostness, we are becoming more and more addicted to amusement.

Make a little test of evangelical vocabulary, and calculate, for example, the increasing frequency with which we use the world "fun" to describe almost everything we like. But when do we describe our good experiences as "meaningful" or "significant" or "enriching" or "ennobling" or "worthwhile" or "edifying" or "helpful" or "strengthening" or "encouraging" or "deepening" or "transforming"
or "valuable" or "eye-opening" or "God-exalting"?

Examine yourself with this text: Whatever else it teaches, this is clear, it teaches that after death there is eternal life and glory and honor and peace, and there is eternal wrath and indignation and tribulation and distress. And in the twinkling of an eye, even before this service is over, you could be irreversibly in the one or the other. I am a watchman on the wall. And I have warned you as clearly as I know how. Get ready and stay ready.

Live in the light of eternity. And I do mean light, not shadow. When you have come to know your God, and love his Son so much that you can say, "For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain," then living in the light of eternity will replace your "fun" with deeper, higher, wider, longer, more unshakable, more varied, more satisfying, more durable, more solid pleasures than all the fun that entertainment could ever give. O come, and let us be a different breed of people for the few short years we have to live upon this earth! Dream some dream of making your life count for Christ and his Kingdom. "Only one life, 'twill soon be past. Only what's done for Christ will last."

I mean to swim against the tide of fun. Not that I won't be amused by satire. Not that I won't enjoy life to the full. But precisely because I will enjoy life to the full, knowing that under God, life is serious. Enjoying God, I suspect that life (true life) is enjoyably serious, and ultimately seriously enjoyable.


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Victor said...

very good post! "are you having fun?' or "have you had fun?" is a very common question. People want to have fun at work, over the weekened, at home, at church, just about everywhere. I love to listen to John Piper.