Freedom to Live
In Shakespeare's comedy Twelfth Night, there is an exchange that takes place between a slightly drunk Sir Toby Belch and the dour character Malvolio that has always made me smile.
Many scholars believe that the character of Malvolio was a not-so-subtle critique by Shakespeare of influential Puritans in Elizabethan England, some of whom were vocally opposed to the theater, which they deemed a vice to be avoided.
Sir Toby dryly says to Malvolio:
Dost thou think, because thou art virtuous, there shall be no more cakes and ale?Malvolio had a way of bringing everyone down with his pessimism and piety. But Sir Toby reminds him that despite his best efforts, Malvolio wasn't going to steal his joy and his zest for living.
I've met my fair share of Malvolios in Christian circles over the years.
In fact, there was a time as a young man when I came to believe that Christianity was little more than a bunch of Puritans walking around sucking the life out of life. And so I walked away from it.
Eventually, I came to realize that the puritanical version of Christianity I'd fled was not at all representative of the example that Jesus himself set for his followers.
By all accounts, it seems that Jesus enjoyed a good party, loved sitting down to dinner with people, and the only people he really criticized and dressed down were the overly-religious Puritans of his day.
The other day I was reading a poem by the British poet William Blake entitled "To The Christians," and this line stood out for me:
I know of no other Christianity and of no other Gospel than of the liberty both of body & mind to exercise the Divine Arts of Imagination.The essence of Christianity is the freedom we have in Christ to live life to the fullest, to enjoy and make the most of every moment we've been given.
This doesn't mean that we live irresponsibly, to be sure. Our freedom ends when it impinges on our ability to flourish as human beings
But it does mean that we can occasionally enjoy a night out with friends... a really great dinner with good wine... laughter... romance... great music... good movies... the occasional party... and even cakes and ale.
May you live an abundant life today and every day. And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.