If you pay close attention to the news or social media, you are sure to find the things that divide us as humans. Whether it is a political position or a football team, there is seemingly an emphasis on how different humans are. However, there is much that we all have in common. One of these things is joy. Humans were created for joy (Psalm 96:11), namely joy in God and what He has made. We seldom choose activities to partake in that we don’t derive joy in. Even the necessary activities (such as work) that we partake in are for future joy (our wages). As with everything, sin corrupts what was made for our good and God’s glory. What Paul describes in Romans 1 is a problem that plagues all humanity, we’d rather derive joy in what God has made apart from the God who made it. The Bible defines this problem as idolatry. So how can we pursue joy in such a way that doesn’t make us neglect God as the object of our joy?
God vs Stuff
In our technological age, we are consistently inundated with entertainment. Whether it’s social media, streaming platforms or facetime, there are abundant opportunities to pursue joy. Often, when topics like these are raised two sides are quickly established – it’s either God or stuff. On the surface, they appear to be fair opponents. It is easy to elevate stuff to the neglect of the God we ought to have above all (Exodus 20:3-4). However, it is also possible to have God in His rightful place to neglect what He has made. This position is also wrong. Whilst one position promotes idolatry, the other promotes Gnosticism. One concept of Gnosticism proclaims that only good can be found in the spiritual, whilst evil is found in the material. These two positions present a false dichotomy, you must choose God or His stuff. God doesn’t give us such a choice to make. Instead, we ought to declare over creation what God did – that it is good (Genesis 1:31). And whilst creation has been tainted by sin, God’s final word over creation is not destruction but redemption (Romans 8:20-21). To pursue joy biblically is not to separate God from His creation and choose one. Instead, to pursue joy biblically is to enjoy creation in all its goodness and for this joy to resound in praise and glory for the Creator (1 Timothy 6:17).
There always seems to be an event, tv show or song that sparks debate amongst Christians. Christians are called to be holy (Leviticus 20:7, 1 Peter 1:16), so these debates are warranted, and careful consideration is necessary. Some Christians want to be instructed at each juncture as to how to be holy, whilst others want to use their freedom without considering their neighbours. I think Romans 14 can be helpful for us. “Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it is unclean. For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died. So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:13-17). In Romans 14, Paul here is detailing how believers ought to handle disputes. It is unlikely that believers will be united on how to best use their God-given freedom. Believers can be joined on not using their freedom as a stumbling block to the “one for whom Christ died” (Romans 14:15).
Pursue Joy in Peace
We will have different theological convictions on how to pursue joy best. Our position on engagement with a particular form of entertainment is not a universal position for all believers. Before you decide to DM that brother or sister, ensure that you’re not making a personal conviction, a corporate one (Romans 14:23). If a fellow believer is pursuing joy in such a way that violates biblical command, correct them gently so that they are more readily able to hear you (Galatians 6:1). One day we will have unbroken and unending joy that is untainted by sin. But we do not have to wait for glory to taste what we were created for. God in His kindness has given us all things for our enjoyment, don’t let sin rob what Christ has redeemed.