Thom S. Rainer wrote a blog about church fights he had heard about, and offered commentary (in quotes) on each. Here’s a sampling.
A battle over whether to build a children’s playground or to use the land for a cemetery. “I’m dying to know the resolution to this one.”
A fight over which picture of Jesus to put in the foyer. “I just want to know who took the pictures.”
An argument over whether the church should allow deviled eggs at the church meal. “Only if it’s balanced with angel food cake for dessert.”
A disagreement over using the term “potluck” instead of “pot blessing.” “I get it! The concept of luck contradicts the theology of a sovereign God. This issue is very serious. Good luck trying to resolve it.”
These are funny. And sad. But James was not laughing when he wrote to the churches, “What causes quarrels and fights among you?” The answer may surprise you, but it is the same, whether the quarrel is in the bedroom, the boardroom, the church house or the White House. James goes right to the heart of conflict by identifying our passions, our desires, our pleasures as the culprit. What happens when our desire for something is interfered with? You may have seen the commercial where the wife says to her husband, “Don’t forget we’re taking my mom and dad out on the boat this Sunday.” The man grimaces. Then we see him drive his Hyundai to the marina, untie the boat, and shove it away from the dock with his foot. As it drifts away he says, “Not my Sunday.” The voiceover comes up: “Hyundai, the official car of the NFL.”
Here’s the thing. God created us with an incredible capacity for pleasure. He wants us to enjoy the earth He fashioned, and its many delights. But hedonism is a pursuit of pleasure for its own sake. It is the belief that pleasure really is the chief end of man, the reason we exist. If we stumble down that path, we will find ourselves in all kinds of trouble.
A desire for pleasure was the root of David’s sin of adultery with Bathsheba. And it started when he saw her taking a bath on a nearby rooftop. There were three “ways of escape” the Lord gave him, I believe, that David blew right past in pursuit of the fulfillment of his lusts. First, it was spring, “when kings went out to war.” Not David. Not that spring. Second, when he got his first glimpse of Bathsheba, he could have turned away, shut his chamber windows, and taken a cold shower. Nope. Third, when his servant delivered Bathsheba to his door, he could have sent her back home, and fallen on his face and repented. He did not. Instead, he coveted another man’s wife. Then he stole her. Then he had her husband killed.
Ok, if the pursuit of pleasure for its own sake leads to empty lives at best, and destroyed lives at worst, what then?
John Piper argues for a pursuit of pleasure in God, something he calls Christian Hedonism. “My shortest summary of it is this — God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him. Or: The chief end of man is to glorify God by enjoying him forever. Does Christian Hedonism make a god out of pleasure? No. It says that we all make a god out of what we take most pleasure in. My life is devoted to helping people make God their God by wakening in them the greatest pleasures in him.”