Society is filled with voices trying to tell us what to think and how to live, and we often spend too much time trying to please the unpleasable. Too often, churches spend more time trying to charm the culture rather than serving our Savior. We seek to entice the lost with entertainment when they are drowning in it already, and we conform our talking points to mimic their topics of the day. The problem is we gain nothing by it; we compromise our calling, and the world maintains its displeasure.
Even in the time of Jesus, the world could not be appeased. In instructing us, our Savior once compared his culture to children in the marketplace calling out to their peers (Matthew 11:16). Kids in the public square do not contribute to the commerce, but they do begin to imitate their parents’ authority. Somehow, these children came to believe it was in their jurisdiction to tell other children what was important and how they should act. No matter how much their companions tried to appease them, they were never satisfied. These sham superintendents said, “we played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn (Matthew 11:17).”
Jesus went on to explain. He said John the Baptist came neither eating nor drinking, and they said he had a demon (Matthew 11:18). In saying John had a demon, they were showing their displeasure because he would not celebrate what they thought he should celebrate. Then came Jesus, eating and drinking and declaring the year of jubilee, and they called him a glutton and a drunkard (Matthew 11:19). Remember, you will never hit a moving target.
Regardless of how much we mirror the world’s patterns, unless we embrace their sin and reject the core teaching of Jesus, they will continue to condemn. Scripture calls us a peculiar people. We are not to conform to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2). One of the things that made John the Baptist a great man of God was that he was not a reed shaken by the wind; he did not bow to cultural and political pressures. He also knew how to suffer discomfort when necessary. He was not a man in soft clothing seeking to live in earthly palaces (Matthew 11:7). He was a prophet of God fulfilling his calling no matter what it cost him. This is why the people came out to see him; it was because he was set apart from this world not because he was like them.
Perhaps it is time for us to pay less attention to world’s dances and dirges, and pay closer attention to the voice of our Savior. It is time to stop being reeds bent by the cultural winds. The Christian life has its place for feasting and fasting, but they seldom align with the passions of the world. Maybe it is time for us to live in a way that says we do not take our marching orders from the pretended authority of the children in the marketplace. We follow the Father. The one who’s feasts and fasts, unlike the world’s, can satisfy the soul, offer us peace, and lead us to glory.