Michael Wittmer’s 2015 book asks a question that is dear to my heart as a millennial pastor who grew up middle class with plenty of accouterments: Can you serve Jesus and still enjoy your life?
I may be a Calvinist but even I still think the answer not only needs to be but is YES.
Here’s the thing, I spent a time outside the faith, a time when I snidely looked down on those foolish enough to believe the faith and even further down on those who abstained from some of what I thought of as life’s pleasures in the name of faith. So I believe Wittmer is bang on when he writes, “have you ever thought you might enjoy life more if you weren’t a Christian? Unless you feel the weight of this question, you’ll never understand your nonreligious friends.” As he points out, people today are fiercely independent and not even God can come between them and pleasure.
We can fight this, but we will lose, as surely as there are no Canadian teams in the playoffs this year.
The faith, salvation, the reversal of sin and death, the overcoming of evil, the empty tomb, they mean many thing to many people but one things is for sure, as Wittmer notes “Redemption may do more than restore the pleasures of creation, but it will not do less.” You see, the Jesus I follow loved to eat and did so regularly with his friends, the Jesus I follow saw the party starting to wane and turned water into wine, even if it was at the behest of his party-animal mother.
We are meant to enjoy life and we are meant to enjoy creation, Jesus came back from the dead in a body and then had breakfast on the beach with his friends, we are supposed to take that to mean something, it means not only are we saved and is Jesus the Lord Christians claim him to be, it also means we are free to enjoy our bodies and earthly pleasures.
Those pleasures will never truly fulfill us, as everyone knows. That is because we live in a broken and sinful world. Wittmer does a good job of expressing this and illuminating some of its practical implications. In a great line of clarity he speaks an obvious truth I have never thought of, “left to ourselves we are selfish, despicable traitors who would murder God if we had the chance. This is not mere speculation, for the one time God gave us an opening, we took it.” I mean, that hits home.
From all of this Wittmer argues we have a much higher calling to ecological stewardship than we normally accept or admit. More importantly, he does a great job of explaining how and why the bible offers us hope for the future. I pray that you would read both his book and the bible if you are among those who need a word of hope today, you will not be disappointed.