Tuesday, February 1, 2011

If It Feels Good…

“People will be self-centered and…lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, as they make a pretense of religion but deny its power…” 2 Timothy 3: 2a, 4b-5

These are harsh yet prophetic words from St. Paul today in his second letter to Timothy. And I think he is describing our culture perfectly. For another hallmark, or defining characteristic of our world is hedonism. Hedonism is living for pleasure and holding that enjoying oneself is the highest goal to achieve.

If we take an honest look around us, I think we would have to agree that many people have ascribed to this way of living and seek pleasure at all times. Obviously this is most illustrated in the way our society has perverted the beautiful and holy gift of sexuality that God has given us. What we often fail to miss is that sex was not created for pleasure, sex was created for union between spouses and for the procreation of the human race. The fact that it also happens to be pleasurable is part of the gift God has given us. But if one seeks sexual intimacy as a means to pleasure, as opposed to pleasure being a by-product and fruit of the conjugal act, then one has placed sexual gratification on the altar of hedonism.

Likewise, the purpose of eating food is not pleasure, it is so that our bodies can have the fuel we need to survive and to do our daily work. The fact that eating is enjoyable is not the point, it is again, a gift that God has attached to the process. If one were to eat only for pleasure, then one would be abusing the gift that God has given us and will have placed eating on the altar of hedonism.

So what else have we placed on the altar of hedonism? Each of us needs to take a hard, long and honest look into our own lives and with the grace of God examine our motives for our actions and see where we are simply doing things for the pleasure they give us. If we don’t, then we risk compromising our beliefs and convictions at the expense of feeling good. Of course it isn’t that God does not want us to enjoy the things He has given us, otherwise He would not have attached pleasure to them, but we want to make sure that we are using the goods of this earth in accord with His designs and not simply for our own enjoyment and pleasure. 

Are you afraid of any kind of pain for yourself or those you love? Do you do everything possible to minimize any potential hurts? Do you run away from confrontation or hard work? Are you lazy? Do you desire the goods of this earth more than you desire righteousness or following God’s will and commands? Tough questions; questions that might cut to the heart of our motives. But the reality of life, especially the life of a Christian is that there will be suffering. There will be death and sickness and loss. Life doesn’t always feel good. And sometimes life really, really hurts. And if all you’ve been living for is pleasure, then how will you cope with the dark times and how will you survive to the next day when the rug is pulled out from under your life?

Christ did not live for pleasure. He lived to love others. He accepted His suffering rather then run away from it. He was not afraid of hard work or confrontation. He did not compromise who He was or who He was created to be in exchange for the fleeting pleasures of this world. As His followers, how can we strive for anything different?

Dear Jesus, I want to use Your good gifts according to Your purpose for them. Help me through Your grace to always be pure in my motives and actions and to accept the suffers and hardships of life with patience and joy. Amen.

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