We ended the last post with a couple of questions:
So then, is holiness compatible with an outright pursuit of pleasure?
Perhaps our lack of discipline is an unwitting fortune and we should stop feeling so guilty about our indulgences?
Should, then, holiness be compatible with a life spent pursuing pleasure?
To answer that question we have to do a little history...
In the beginning God made all that exists and declared that it was a thing of beauty and pleasure:
God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.
God made a Garden and called it Eden, it was a place of pleasurable surroundings:
And the LORD God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food.
God placed Adam in the garden to enjoy its fruits and to protect and nourish this place of beauty:
The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.
God made a wife for Adam; the couple were then told to enjoy the world God had made, to come together and create children, and to join in the reign of God over this good earth. There was no alienation, no fear, no curse, no sin:
The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.
The story doesn't end there, however. Adam and Eve rebel against God's sovereignty, they chose to ignore His good decrees and listened instead to the voice of the destroyer. The promise was made, "I can give you pleasure that God cannot." And our first parents listened to the deceiver. They pursued pleasure (which they already had in abundance) and gave up peace (which they could never regain). They gave up everything and got nothing in return.
The results of this rebellious choice was the curse we still see in effect today...
The man and the woman were set at odds against each other, humans alienated from other humans; there was alienation between humanity and the world itself, no longer a luscious garden, but an inhospitable place of toil and danger; humans were even alienated within themselves, ashamed of their own appearance and identity. But curse upon curses, human arrogance had driven a wedge between humanity and the Good Creator who loved them...
Our price in the devil's bargain was our freedom. His payment to us was the fleeting pleasure of ill-gotten gain, swiftly replaced by the realization of the ensuing consequences.
A wonderful analogy (for those of you who have seen the movie Aladdin) is the villain Jaffar, who is offered the complete and unlimited power of the godlike genie, and upon receiving this power is then made aware of the condition of that power: he is enslaved, bound to the lamp and the desires of whomever holds it.
Any discussion of pleasure and holiness must begin with this history in mind; we are enslaved. God created us for freedom, and we chose bondage. It is often thought that freedom is the ability to do whatever one wishes, yet we would hardly call it 'freedom' to put sugar in our gas tank; or to use a guitar as a doorstop, or to use our uncovered hand to pull food from the oven. Rather, freedom is what we have when we operate our vehicle with proper care and concern for the operating instructions; freedom is what the master musician has after decades of diligently honing her skills; freedom is what we have when we use our bodies in ways consistent with God's purposes...
Abuse your 'freedom' and you lose it, pay attention to God's intent and gain untold freedom. It is with this reality in mind that we approach holiness and pleasure; we do not really know what pleasure is! And so we must unlearn our habits, we must discipline ourselves towards holiness, if we are to begin to taste of true pleasure...