Last week I enjoyed Spring Break with my family and parents in sunny Sarasota. We saw dolphins, kayaked through mangrove tunnels, ate at Chick-Fil-A (still none in Michigan), and visited the retirement home of Gary and Gloria Meadors. Gary fits right in with the locals, who wonder why, if this is tourist season, why can’t they shoot ‘em?
A couple of times my family went to the beach, where we hunted for shells and shark’s teeth. I thought of the Christians who struggle with such frivolity. How can a Christian collect shells when people are going to hell? There is more than a kernel of truth here. Redemption trumps creation, and we must not allow earthly pleasure to blind us to our higher, heavenly purpose. And yet, it is important for heavenly-minded Christians to take regular breaks to enjoy the pleasures of earth. Good Christians go to the beach.
Jesus did. The last time Jesus was on a beach, one or more of his disciples counted the fish they had just caught, all the way to 153 (John 21:11). “Spiritual” Christians wonder how the disciples, basking in the presence of the risen Christ, could care about something as insignificant as fish. Worldly saints realize they must, or they would undercut the risen Christ, in both parts.
- Christ. Collecting shells and counting fish points to the goodness of creation, which is essential for the incarnation (John 1:14). Turn up your nose at the conches and coquinas that wash in with the tide, and you will struggle to keep an orthodox view of the God-man. The Son of God became a part of this good world. Lose the latter, and you will almost certainly lose the former (see Gnosticism’s greased slide into Docetism).
- Risen. A good creation is also essential for the resurrection. If this physical world is too inferior for our enjoyment, wouldn’t you wonder why Jesus would have bothered to physically rise from the dead? And if there is no bodily resurrection, then we remain in our sins (1 Cor. 15:12-17).
Where will you enjoy creation this spring? Don’t feel guilty for time spent bird watching, pitching, or collecting shells. It would be wrong to make an idol out of these things—that would be sin—but it would also be dangerous to suppose such pleasant diversions are inappropriate for believers. This “spiritual” attitude turns us into tiresome humans, and even worse Christians. It may be the opposite of materialism, but it’s just as pagan.
You can learn more about this in Becoming Worldly Saints, which fittingly has a picture of a beach on its cover. You may not find the best shells or the most shark’s teeth this spring break, but isn’t it good to know that God doesn’t mind if you try?