There it is. The question might sound absurd but it’s a very important question that you should consider. I just had a discussion about it with my friend Jack. I’m reproducing it from memory for your benefit.
I was sitting on a bench, eating ice cream when all of a sudden I heard a voice behind me,
(Me, looking back…)
Me: Jack! Hello! How are you?
Jack: I’m fine. How about you?
Me: I’m great as well. What a long time since we met! Must be a couple of years!
Jack: Yes. Indeed.
Me: (As he was still standing behind the bench) Come, sit. (Looking towards the store where I bought the ice cream and shouting) Can you send one more ice cream?
Jack: (Reluctantly) Um… I don’t eat ice cream.
Me: What? You don’t eat ice cream? What kind of person are you?
Jack: Um… normal? But I’m surprised that you eat ice cream. I thought you were a christian…
Me: What’s being a christian have to do with it?
Jack: A lot. In fact.
Me: Please explain.
Jack: You see, as Christians, Jesus called us to live a simple life. Even he himself led a very simple life. This should be reflected in every part of our lives. May it be housing, clothing or even food. We should only eat simple food. Dal & rice are enough. Ice cream is a luxury. Many people don’t even have the fortune to eat simple food, much less something as luxurious as ice cream.
Me: Hmmm… I see.
Jack: Yes. Instead of eating this ice cream, you could’ve purchased something simple and given to someone who doesn’t have food.
Me: (Ashamed and silent. Looking down.)
Jack: Furthermore, by eating ice cream, you are guilty of gluttony. While there are people who don’t have even simple food, here you are eating ice cream. Fulfilling your own fleshly desires. Putting your own desires above God’s command of living a simple life and loving others.
Even if you say that ice cream is a simple food, keep eating it and it will eventually make you sick. Simple food will never make you sick. It will give you strength and nourishment that you require to do God’s work.
Me: What must I do?
The words pierced my heart. I dropped the half eaten cone of ice cream by the bench side and walked away from there. Taking a decision to never ever eat ice cream again. I have shared this life changing experience with many of my friends and many have accepted it. They have also taken a decision to never eat ice cream. There are 23 of us who meet weekly. You are also welcome to join us. However, I’m concerned about my other friends who have rejected this doctrine. It is for them, and many others like them I am writing this.
There are many Christian friends of mine who are good Christians but still do not understand the value of following Jesus in his simplicity and holiness. Many are still caught in the allure of this worldly pleasure. I pray that their eyes are also opened to this truth.
Disclaimer: All the events depicted above are purely imaginary and any resemblance with actual events or characters in the real world is purely co-incidental. Furthermore, no animals (except for a few mosquitoes) were hurt during the writing.
Was that cheesy enough?
You must be wondering if there’s an actual point in here somewhere… Well, there is. There’s a whole class of questions just like this one. Should a christian wear jewellery? Should a christian listen to rock music? Can a christian make tattoos over his/her body? Can a christian drink wine? Should a christian girl wear jeans?
These are the questions that I have heard over and over again for years. All these questions can be debated rigorously. Arguments exist on both side of the fence. Books can be written (and have been written) addressing just one of the issue above. However, it seems to me that there are more similarities than differences between the arguments that support each of these views.
The churches seem to be divided in regards to these issues. While fundamentalists or traditional churches are largely restrictive, liberals are … well … liberal. And the real victims of this debate are youths. It creates a great confusion among the youths whose elders are restrictive. And when they see their peers, their friends enjoying the (false) freedom that the world provides, for them, this restrictions become a reason to part ways from Christianity.
To be frank, I have nothing against being a fundamentalists or a traditionalists. I identify myself as one. But I’d rather reserve that hard nosed fundamentalist attitude for the issues that matter the most. Like the core doctrines of Christianity. To me, wearing jewellery or listening to a certain kind of music do not qualify as a core doctrine. But let me come back to the original questions. The questions that are very real for those who face them everyday.
With that very long introduction, let me come to the real content of the post. That is, to provide an answer to the question. I will address my answer to 2 different persons. The first person is the one who is actually facing the question. A young christian who might be wondering about jewellery or rock music. The second person is the person who doesn’t like my answer to the first person (because it’s leaning on the side of liberalism).
Here’s the answer to the first person:
I do not have answer to your question. But since you have come to me expecting an answer, and I don’t have an answer, I’ll invent some questions of my own and answer them instead! (I won’t let you return empty handed!)
Can a person wear jewellery and still be a christian? Yes.
Can a person listen to rock music and still be a christian? Yes.
Can a person have tattoos over his body and still be a christian? Yes. (But, why? I must ask…)
Can a person drink wine and still be a christian? Yes.
Can a girl wear jeans & still be christian? Yes.
…. and on & on ….
You get the general idea. But wait! I have another set of questions & answers as well! And this set is much more important that the above one.
Does the bible teach us to respect our elders? Yes.
Does the bible teach us to obey our parents? Yes.
And just to be through, I must also present a third set of questions.
Does bible promote being pompous and filled with vanity? No.
Does bible promote excessive drinking that ruins your life? No.
Does bible promote subscribing to vulgarity just because it’s packaged with good music? No.
Does bible promote being immodest? No.
I have given above sets of questions to create a framework for an answer that is specific to your situation. I don’t have a general Yes or No answer. However, these questions will help you come up with your own concrete yes or no answer. If you are still confused, ask me in the comments.
I will now address those who don’t like the above answer. Pleased to meet you! My answer above is positioned in such a way that it rules out everyone else except for those who believe that wearing jewellery or listening to rock music or wearing jeans is “essentially” evil & sinful. Hear me out.
Note: If you don’t think “listening to rock music” or “wearing jewellery” is essentially evil, and still disagree with my first answer, I think you don’t exist. But if you do, meet me in the comments. I’d love to hear you out.
First of all, as an exercise, I would like you to figure out what is wrong with the story that I started this post with. What’s the problem with the arguments presented in favor of total abstinence of ice cream from our daily life? If you can’t, does it mean that eating ice cream is inherently an evil thing to do?
All of the above questions are regarding highly superficial details of the christian life and if answered with a simple Yes or No, leaves the questioner with a rule without a reason to back that rule. As we have seen throughout history, all irrational beliefs eventually collapse or make people intellectually impaired and superstitious.
I understand that a person can be overzealous because of passion or love for something. If a church traditionally bans wearing jewellery and then a kid like me comes and tells them that all their rules & traditions are absurd & pointless, it might seem like an attack to the church itself. But that is not always the case. I’d rather request you to go back to the history of your church and find out the reason for these restrictions. The decision to not wear jewellery was valiant indeed. It required a surrender, a death, from the privileged members of the church for the sake of those who were not so fortunate to afford such luxury. Only a church truly led by God could’ve accomplished such a feat. But taking that one event, one instance and generalizing it, and following it blindly makes up more problems than it’s worth. If traditions & events are so important, why don’t we sell off all our property and live like the church of the first century?
So, mainly to those who firmly believe that all Christians shouldn’t wear jewellery or jeans, I request you to reevaluate your beliefs. This is the Internet generation. We sees too much and reasons far more recklessly than the generations gone before. We are not geniuses, just over-educated & over-exposed. We do not think through the decisions we make. And if the Christian religion becomes an inconvenience to us, we won’t think twice before we leave it.
If, even after doing all of the above, you are convinced that there’s a certain rule that we should follow, rather than imposing it externally, lead us to Christ. Let us taste and see that he is good. If you can’t convince us about the rule, and if we rebel too much, be gracious to us and lead us to the cross. Let God convict and convince us.
Addendum: It seems that many of my readers are now confused about whether to eat ice cream or not. While I’m tempted to keep the question open, I think I should make myself clear. So, here’s my response to my own (idiotic) question:
Everyone (including myself) seems to be of the opinion that eating ice cream is perfectly fine. However, no one (excluding me) seems to be able to provide arguments that are sufficient to refute the arguments presented in the above story. So, let me point out exactly what I have done wrong in creating the above story. It can be said that I have proved too much with a very limited part of the bible. I am creating a straw man argument by cherry picked the positions & passages of the bible that allow me to support the case while conveniently ignoring other passages of the bible which may contradict the positions of my imaginary cult.
Generally, I can say that God didn’t create us to be miserable. A life without ice cream would certainly be a lesser life. But going deeper into the scripture, we can see instances such as the first miracle of Jesus, the woman with alabaster oil and many more… These passages do not make sense when viewed from the lense of “no ice-cream” belief system. And thus, our “no ice-cream” cult can’t be a true Christianity. I think that should clear things up.