Christians don’t have the best reputation when it comes to parties.
And that’s pretty fair – we’ve done a lot to earn it. It’s pretty common to hear stuff like “I used to party every weekend but then Jesus turned my life around” at a student ministry. Our collective Christian imagination tells us that holiness is supposed to look calm, peaceful, and contemplative.
Scripture tells a different story. Jesus’ first miracle in the Gospel of John was to save a party. Jesus, his disciples, and his mother were at a wedding in Cana when the wine ran out. Jesus transformed water (6 stone jars of 20 to 30 gallons each! must’ve been a big wedding) into wine – wine so good that the chief steward complimented the bride groom, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.”
Later, when explaining the purpose of John the Baptist, Jesus pointed out the double-talk of the religious elite about fasting and enjoying food and drink.
For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon’; the Son of Man (Jesus) has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Nevertheless, wisdom is vindicated by all her children.”
The point here is that neither fasting nor feasting is holier than the other – and people, especially the religious leaders, often care too much about outward appearances and too little about real repentance and seeking after God. The holier-than-thou folks called Jesus a “friend of tax collectors and sinners” in an attempt to discredit him, but I think befriending the tax collectors and sinners is the real purpose behind Jesus’ eating and drinking.
One of our little mantras for trying to figure out how to be real disciples in real life is, “we want to do the same things Jesus did for the same reasons.” This is really just a longer version of the classic “What Would Jesus Do?” reflective question that has adorned so many wrists over the years. What did Jesus do and why? Jesus – in the miracle of the incarnation – came to us on a mission: “The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood.”
It turns out parties are a great place to get to know people. When you share a meal with someone, friendship gets just a little bit easier. Parties are great places to invite just a couple extra guests, to make introductions, and to show people you care about them (“Hey, I made those chocolate pretzel things I know you like!”). Some folks don’t care too much for small talk, but we have to get through small talk to get to the real stuff – and the din and movement of a good party can help carry us over those first few hurdles of getting to know someone.
Leslie and I have been practicing the art of throwing a good party since we moved into our new home. It’s a big part of our strategy for church planting. We want to create an atmosphere where people can celebrate and be thankful. More often then not, opportunities come up where we can share why we are thankful and to whom.
Want to learn more about how to throw a party for Jesus? Check out Hugh Halter’s book Happy Hour: Etiquette and Advice on Holy Merriment. It’s available in packs of 5 – and it’s the perfect format for a group book study or to pass out to friends.
Dan (& Leslie & Lucy & Mabel & Ajax & Jules & Tempe)