I wrote a post yesterday about how I appreciated Rob Bell. I wrote that because…well, I appreciate him. I said it in the post, and I will say it again, I don’t agree with everything Bell teaches or writes, but that doesn’t stop me from appreciating him and what he has taught me.
Which got me thinking. Who else do I disagree with but truly appreciate because they have helped me in my faith? It is a sad reality that Christians are quick to draw lines in the sand separating people who proclaim, “Jesus is Lord” because they fail to make the same ethical conclusions because of that statement. What I mean by that is, some proclaim “Jesus is Lord” and because of that proclamation advocate for women in ministry, while others proclaim “Jesus is Lord” and fight for the rights of illegal immigrants. These ethical differences are enough for some to refuse to acknowledge the validity of others declaration of Jesus lordship. Personally, I see this as being no different than in Luke 7:31-35 where Jesus calls the people childish be they rejected John for not eating with people and Jesus for eating with everyone.
I don’t want to draw those lines. So, while the list of who I disagree with could be a long one, there is one name that jumped out in my mind – John Piper.
I appreciate John Piper.
Maybe I feel the need to say so after questioning a tweet of his after the Oklahoma tornado. But if I am being honest, that isn’t the first time I have strongly disagreed with Piper. It’s just the first time is was public. I find the way Piper speaks of gender roles and women in ministry to be very unhelpful to this very important dialogue. Admittedly, my response to what he says is much less diplomatic than the sentence I just wrote.
But that doesn’t change the fact that I appreciate John Piper.
In college I read Desiring God – because I loved Jesus and that’s what you do in college if you love Jesus. It changed how I viewed God. Radically. The idea that God would be after my joy didn’t fit the rule checker I had built God up to be. I had long regarded pleasure as a bad thing, but suddenly I was beginning to believe that it was a good thing. And that made me giddy about Jesus. Learning about Christian hedonism from his book (and the dictionary. I had to look up “hedonism” to get past the cover) opened me up to the possibility that God really is good. That even in the dark places of life God is still good. That is a beautiful gift to give to a young man in college.
Especially a young man who goes through the dissolution of a marriage engagement.
It was around that time that I read Desiring God and The Pleasures of God and those books gave me hope. I began to believe that in the midst of my pain God was working good. That I would experience joy. That I could experience joy. Best of all, when it seemed that joy would escape me those books were a warm blanket to my soul anchoring me to the truth that God is after my joy.
I am grateful for that.
While my views may be more nuanced, or may have an all together different view, the one truth remains: I believe God is after my joy. God is not the cosmic killjoy. I am not evil for desiring joy and pleasure. The truth just might be that God is most glorified when we are most satisfied in him. Satisfied. What a great thought! For helping me understand that, I appreciate John Piper.
So, Rob and John, pull up a chair to the table. It isn’t my table, but I know you’re welcome at it. Let’s break bread together. (By the way, can you imagine getting to sit in the middle of that!?! Beautiful.)