Our Joy in His Restrictions

The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance. – Psalm 16:6

 

The cultural discussions over the last several weeks on transgender policies, and the preceding conversations over the last several years on a host of social issues has seemed to take on a repetitive rhythm.  Christians, in defending the authority of God, as spoken through Scripture, declare that some activities and decisions are off limits and out of bounds while the other side of the debate responds by asserting their freedom to choose those actions, relationships, lifestyles, and loves they believe will fulfill or please them. It quickly devolves into a discussion pitting authority against choice, and (incase you have missed it) in our society choice always wins.

And why wouldn’t choice win out?  Deep down don’t we all desire to feel fulfilled, to feel loved, to feel whole?  And if we desire those things and encounter opportunities to pursue those end goals, wouldn’t we all follow the path we believe best leads us there? At the end of the day we are all creatures bent on pursuing our greatest joy, and so it only takes a small group of people who begin choosing something new, something outside of the cultural norm in order to pursue happiness, fulfillment, and joy for a cultural movement to begin.  As soon as the question becomes “don’t you want me to be happy?” the social tipping point is not far behind.  Because, how do you answer that question with anything but a yes?  It seems antithetical to be someone who is for others and yet not affirm their pursuit of joy.  But, as the church speaks up in these discussions, holding fast to Christian morality, what those searching for joy and fulfillment often hear is a resounding “no!”

I have a constant argument with my seven year old, and no matter the specific situation, the crux of the argument is that he cannot understand how me saying “no” to his desires could possibly be for his good.  I often take painstaking time to explain to him how my intentions are for his joy, but often times he leaves the situation doubting.  And it is that doubt, that perhaps not all of my decisions for him are ultimately best for him, that leads him to rebel against the rules I have set for him and to disobey.  There is only one solution to this situation and it is not for me to teach him to fear punishment and repercussions (though discipline certainly has its place) or to shame him for his decisions; instead, it’s for me to continue to strive to show him in word and action that I am for him and I want joy for him as much or more than he does. 

This is what the psalmist is testifying to in Psalm 16.  It is a declaration foreign to our culture, but true about our loving creator.  God is for us, and in being for us; He has set boundary lines in place to for His glory and our joy.  He has placed off limits those things that might bring temporary pleasure but ultimately lead to destruction; He has shown us His design for human flourishing in Holy Scripture and called us into that peace, that Shalom.  We were made by a loving and perfect creator, and our ultimate fulfillment is found within the confines of his perfect design.  This must be our appeal to a culture pursuing fulfillment, identity, and happiness at a seemingly break neck pace.  It cannot simply be “no” to the action, choice, or situation, but rather it must be a “yes” to truer fulfillment, identity, and joy.  A yes so strong that we would remind each other that the boundary lines clearly laid out in scripture are pleasing, and that there is greater joy in Jesus than can be found in relationships, sex, food, activities, or other pursuits. 

I never want my son to feel unfulfilled, lonely, hurt, depressed, or unloved.  But because I truly love him I want him to find the true source of all of those things, rather than imitations that seem pleasing to the eye but leave us wanting.  What if that was the Christian desire in the midst of these cultural discussions?  What if we so loved our neighbors, and so desired their joy, that we would speak lovingly of the pleasing boundary lines our God has put in place for us?  Perhaps rather than the conversation being choice vs. authority it would be seemingly good vs. so much better.