Pleasure and Addiction
I am thankful that, generally speaking, Christian faith does not call us to asceticism. By that, I mean to a life denying all pleasures of this world. Picture the swami in a mountain-top cave or a monk living isolated from the things and people of this world.
Generally speaking, I think our faith calls us to enjoy God’s creation. Good food (or beer, in moderation), the love and fellowship of spouse, family and others, a walk in the woods or on the beach, a good night’s sleep. God has designed us to enjoy these things, and we should!
But there is always the danger that we become too attached to these things and let them become too central to our lives. Pleasure can become addiction and so lose its pleasure.
So there are times when we set some of these things aside. That is one of the purposes of the Penitential seasons in the life of the church, Lent especially but also Advent. We use these seasons to deliberately set aside some earthly pleasure in order to take up more fully the yoke of Christ and, usually, return to it later with greater appreciation and less compulsion.
Sunday’s rather confusing lesson from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians echoes this. Click here to read it. Early in Paul’s ministry, there was a general expectation that Jesus would return sooner rather than later, likely within their lifetimes. His later writings shift, but in his earlier writings this is a more immediate concern. (The reasons for this are complex and would take far more space than I have here.) In anticipating Jesus’ return, Paul advises believers to be extra careful about their attachments to things of this world.
Even though we are not expecting Jesus’ immediate return, there is wisdom in taking an inventory of our attachment to things pleasures of this life. In less than a month, we will begin the season of Lent. Be thinking and praying about what you might need to step away from this year.
This column appeared in the January 24, 2021 edition of St. John’s eNews. Click here for the complete issue.
If you are reading this at a different time, you may click here for the current eNews.