Introduction to Christian fun
Some viewers to this website may wonder if Christians can ever have any fun, and what can they do to relax and really have a good time. Let me assure you that based on my decades of experience in being raised in a Christian home, pastoring several churches, and participating in many Christian groups through eight decades of living that Christians certainly can have fun.
Some of the earliest memories that I have of my childhood are of the weekly pinocle parties that my parents had with my grandparents and a couple of friends in our home. They would get together every Saturday night to play cards together. After hours of playing they would end the evening with some light refreshments before they all left to get some sleep. I can remember my younger brother and I sneaking out of our bedroom and crawling down the hall to crouch by the door to our dining room to listen to their chatter as they enjoyed their game. Eventually we became old enough to sit at the table with them and watch their play, and later we were able to join in the game and refreshmens with them. Sometimes they played canasta, but the fun was always the same. And at times the competition was intense, but it was usually civil and the fellowship was refreshing.
I can remember big family reunions and celebrations for various birthdays and holidays. One year we rented the pavilion at a local park for a big picnic on the 4th of July, and tables were spread with all kinds of good home-made food for everyone. And every day after school and on the weekends us kids in our suburban neighborhood would join together in various games and self-directed recreational activities. We played games like “mother may I?”, and “pump-pump- pullaway”, and “hide and go seek”. We played softball in a neighbor’s vacant lot. We even broke a window in a neighbor’s house, and he fixed the window without requiring that we stop playing next to his house. Probably because his son was part of the game. In the summer we rode our bikes up and down the hill on our neighbor’s sidewalks, which were also good for downhill runs on our roller skates. And in the winter the hill was good for sleding, even on the neighbor’s parkways next to their shoveled sidewalks. It was a good time and place in which to grow up, even though we didn’t have TV or any video games or cell phones or Ipads. We kids had a lot of fun and we communicated with some special friends in face-to-face fellowship.
Years later recreation for children became more organized, so my wife and I would go to the “Litte League” baseball games to watch our sons play their games. Later I can remember spending every weekend during the summer at a special camp ground with other families who came together in their campers to share fellowship and food and games of horseshoes with each other. These times together were important. The fun was refreshing and the fellowship was supporting. And such times of camping and games have been continuously enjoyed by my kids and their families though the years. And such fun and fellowship can be enjoyed even by “broken” families.
Various churches often regularly serve meals for social fellowship. Sometimes they are followed by playing various table games. And sometimes churches will organize and sponsor various athletic teams for their kids and youth to play with other kids and youth teams in established Christian leagues or bowling teams for the adults. Fun and recreation is an essential feature for most Christian camps for children and youth, and even for adult conferences.
A biblical perspective regarding fun and fellowship for Christians
I can’t find a word for “fun” in the Bible, but the words for “joy” and “happy” and “happiness” are there, so this aspect of living through which individuals can relax and experience emotions of “joy” and be “happy” in their daily lives or otherwise have some “fun” is not outside of God’s will for us humans!
It is evident from reading the accounts of Jesus’ life and ministry in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John that Jesus enjoyed social fellowship. As he was just beginning his public ministry, he and some of his newly recruited disciples were invited to join his mother at the celebration of a marriage in Cana in Galilee. These celebrations were not limited to just a few hours after the wedding ceremony, but they went on for a week and the guest list was usually very large. This made it necessary for the bridegroom to do some careful planning and to acquire a sufficient quantity of resources to meet the extended needs of his guests. But after Jesus had arrived, it became obvious to Mary, his mother, that the bridegroom had run out of wine, which would have been a major cause of embarrasment for him and his family. When she told Jesus of this problem, he wasn’t immediately interested in doing anything about it, but she told the servants to “Do whatever he tells you.” (John 2:5) So in order to please his mother, Jesus told the servants to fill the six big “purification” jars with water and to “draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” (John 2:8) When the servants did what Jesus had told them to do, and the “master…tasted the water”, he discovered that the “bridegroom” now had 180 gallons of “good wine” for his guests. (see John 2:6, 9-10 for these details) Jesus had quietly turned the water into wine in order to please his mother and to enable the bridegroom and his guests to continue to enjoy their celebration.
Later when Jesus was talking with a crowd of people that included some of the followers of John the Baptist and Jesus’ disciples, he noted that “the Pharisees and the lawyers” rejected “the purpose of God” as proclaimed by John’ because they regard him as having a “demon” and they also rejected the work of God in “The Son of Man” (a title for Jesus) because they regarded Jesus as a “a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners”, although John the Baptist was known as actively “eating no bread and drinking no wine” while, as Jesus states, “The Son of Man has come eating and drinking”. (see Luke 7:24-35 for this commentary of Jesus regarding his reputation)
I believe that Jesus is not a kill-joy! When Jesus was preparing his disciples for his soon approaching departure from them, he gave them some very important words of instruction regarding their ongoing relationship with him. He indicated that the relationship should be like that which exists between a “vine” and a “branch”. (see John 15:1-7 for this instruction) And then he went on to emphasize that for them to continue to experience a relationship with him, and to “abide” in his “love” they would need to “keep” his “commandments”. And the benefits that would come to them in their relationship of obedient love with him would be “that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full”. (see John 15:8-11 for these further words of instruction) And then Jesus gave his disciples and those who would want to live in a personal relationship with him a specific commandment to “love one another as I have loved you”. (John 15:12) And he described such a relationship as one of “friends” (vs. 14).
But such a relationship of joyous friendship requires more than just sharing in fun and games and fellowship meals together. It requires a level of personal sacrifical love that is demonstrated when “someone” is willing to “lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13), which is an important point in Jesus’ instructions. And he was shortly going to demonstrate this important principle of friendship to them by his submission to being crucified for these disciples and others who would seek to abide in a personal relationship with him. It should be understood that Christian fun and joyous fellowship can never be experienced in activites that promote sexual lust, financial greed or material idolatry, or physical violence. But God’s laws against such attitudes and activies are not intended to prevent individuals from experiencing fun and joy, but only to make it clear that a person can only experience real relaxing fun and fulfilling joy as he or she abides in Jesus through obedient sacrifical love.
Earlier Jesus had apparently became acquainted with Mary and Martha and their brother, Lazarus, when Martha invited him to come into their home in Bethany for a meal on one of his trips from Jerusalem. While Martha was busy trying to fix the meal, Mary gave her attention to Jesus, listening carefully to “his teaching”. (see Luke 10-38-42 for a description of this event) Later when the enemies of Jesus in Jerusalem were agressively trying to get him arrested, he and his disciples left Jerusalem to take sanctuary “across the Jordan” (John 10:40) While they were there, they got word that Lazarus, their “friend” (John 11:11) was sick. Although “Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus” (John 11:5), Jesus did not decide to go to Bethany to care for his friend right away. He waited for another two days before he decided to return to Bethany where he knew that he and his disciples would encounter some of his enemies from Jerusalem, and by then he knew that Lazarus had died. But Jesus knew that he was going to use this situation to demonstrate to his disciples and to his friends, Mary and Martha, and to the crowd of their friendly mourners that “everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die”. (John 11:26) Although Mary and Martha had wished that Jesus had come earlier so that he could have healed Lazarus from his sickness, they were glad to see him. But they were mourning for the death of their brother, and Jesus “wept” (John 11:35) with them. And then they took him to the tomb where Lazarus had been buried for “four days”. (John 11:39) And then in spite of the possible “odor” (vs. 39), Jesus had some of the men roll away the stone that sealed the entrance to the tomb, then he prayed to his “Father” (John 11:41) and shouted with a loud voice, “‘Lazarus, come out’”. (John 11:43) And his beloved friend “came out”. (vs. 44) And I’m sure that Jesus and his disciples and his friends, Mary and Martha and Lazarus, had a big resurrection celebration.
Although some of the Jews believed in Jesus because of this miracle that they had witnessed, others, including his most persistent enemies among the Pharisees in Jerusalem, were still determined to have him arrested so that they could put an end to his critical influence of them among the people. So he and disciples took sanctuary in Ephraim. But six days before the annual Passover, Jesus and his disciples headed back toward Jerusalem. When they came to Bethany, Martha prepared another meal for them in their home, and Lazarus was also present. And this time Mary “took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair.” (John 12:3) Although Judas, one of the disciples, was critical of Mary for doing this, Jesus apparently appreciated Mary’s gesture of devotion. (see John 12:1-8 for the account of this friendly gathering) It was apparently from this household of “friends” and the crowd of friendly followers, who had come there to see him and Lazarus, that Jesus started his parade into Jerusalem prior to the annual Passover festival. (see John 12:9-17)
Early Christians having “fun” together
On the day of Pentecost when Peter and the disciples were filled with the “Holy Spirit” Peter preached an inspired sermon, and “about three thousand” individuals were saved and brought into a personal vital relationship with Jesus. (See Acts 2:1-41, particularly verses 4 and 41 for an account of this event.)
After having this transforming experience, these new believers “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship to the breaking of bread and the prayers….And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people.” (Acts 2:42-47) These early Christians were really enjoying their friendship and fellowship with other believers! They had “glad…hearts” (vs. 46), which means that they were filled with the “joy” of their friendship with Jesus (See John 15:11), which Jesus had earlier promised to those who would obediently “abide” (vs. 10) in his “love”. They were apparently having “fun” in their gatherings.
Source of Christian “fun” is an obedient relationship with Jesus
The above cited teachings of Jesus and the events from the various experiences of the early disciples and believers establish the fact that Christians can have “fun” when they are living in an obedient relationship with Jesus, as “friends”. (see John 15:15) This means that a Christian can really enjoy fixing a meal in the kitchen of one’s home while members of the family and guests are relaxing in another room, because every one of them can share in friendship with Jesus at the same time. The limitations on friendship with Jesus, as experienced by Martha and Mary (as cited earlier in Luke 10:38-42), are no longer in effect. And one’s tears of grief at the funeral of a family member or friend who is loved in friendship with Jesus can be wiped away and the sounds of a funeral dirge can be replaced by the joyous music of a jazz band playing “When the Saints Go Marching In” as friends celebrate the joyous and victorious friendship of Jesus and each other. This was the joyous fellowship that Mary and Martha and Lazarus enjoyed with each other and with Jesus after he had delivered Lazarus from his tomb of death. (as cited earlier in John 11:5- 44) The presence of Jesus in a friendly gathering can provide real “fun” and “joy” whether you are playing a game of pinocle or engaging in another friendly contest, having a cookout on the patio with family and friends, watching the kids play soccer, fishing in a quiet sanctuary of nature, celebrating a wedding or a birthday, or doing a variety of other relaxing activities. God intends for his “children” to enjoy him in their relationship to him through their friendship with Jesus! Christian fun in friendship with Jesus is a gift that is GOOD forever.
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved.