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August 24th, 2013
08:40 AM ET

Should Christianity be so boring?

Opinion by Jon Acuff, Special to CNN

(CNN) - No one has ever accused us Christians of being fun.

No one has ever said we are a laugh-filled group.

No atheist has ever said, “I might not love Jesus, but his followers sure know how to party!”

And yet, in my favorite story in the Bible we actually see Jesus paint the opposite picture.

If you’re a Christian, you’ve heard the Parable of the Prodigal Son in the Gospel of Luke referenced in approximately 42 million sermons. If you’ve missed it though, allow me to summarize.

A young son said to his dad, who represents God, “I want my inheritance.” This was the cultural equivalent of saying, “I wish you were dead!” The father gives him the money. The son immediately runs off to the Jersey shore and fist pumps the night away with 4 Loko and Skrillex. [Not a direct translation.]

After squandering all the money and awakening in a pig pen, the son devises a plan. He will come home, apologize and throw himself at the mercy of the father. His greatest hope is that the father will let him be a servant. He can’t even imagine getting to keep the title “son.”

He comes home expecting punishment, but instead something weird happens.

The father sees him from a distance and sprints toward him. He runs toward him and embraces him. Before the son can even get his whole apology out, the father has already started planning the last thing he expected.

A party.

Instead of punishment he gets a party.

The idea that God fixes problems with parties is crazy.

Who does that?

Life doesn’t work that way. Imagine that you messed up at work. Your boss called you in and said, “Johnson you lost our biggest account! You just cost this company more than 3 million dollars. You know what that makes me want to do? Throw you a party!”

Or think about this in the context of a marriage. Have you ever had an argument with your spouse? Not a fake argument but one that lands you on the couch overnight.

You come into the kitchen and your wife is doing that “mad dishwashing” move we all do when we’re upset. Just power scrubbing pots and pans with a vengeance, mumbling the entire time.

You approach her slowly and say, “Heyyyy baby, how do you feel this morning?” Without looking at you, she takes a deep breath and says, “You really hurt my feelings. Last night, you really surprised me by what you did. My mom was right about you. I’m so angry and disappointed. This whole thing makes me want to get an inflatable bounce house and throw a huge celebration in your honor!”

That would be ludicrous.

Our worst mistakes don’t end in parties, but in this story in the Bible, it did.

When given the opportunity to talk to a group of people, the picture Jesus drew of his Father was of a party giver; someone who met sinners with welcome home banners.

What if Christians were like that?

What if churches became the place where failures found new beginnings?

What if we were known for our parties, not for our Pharisees?

It all feels a little crazy, but I don’t think it’s impossible.

Christians should offer hope in exchange for hurt, new in exchange for old, parties in exchange for pain.

Are we there yet?

Nope, we’ve got a long way to go. We’ve still got a lot of things to work through, a lot of progress we have to make.

But when you think about the prodigal son story, I hope you will remember something.

Two people moved.

One walked.

One ran.

And we prodigals are the walkers.

We still have a running God.

And he is ready to throw a party.

Jon Acuff is a keynote speaker and the author of four books including The New York Times best-seller, START. Acuff is also the author of the popular blog, Stuff Christians Like.net.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Jon Acuff

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Christianity • Church • Opinion

soundoff (4,711 Responses)
  1. Dyslexic doG

    God. The one who loves you so much, that he created hell in case you don't love him back... LOLOLOLOLOLOL

    August 24, 2013 at 10:45 pm |
    • Colin

      You will actually condemn yourself to hell.

      August 24, 2013 at 10:51 pm |
      • Dyslexic doG

        given that it doesn't exist, that's not really anything to be worried about now is it?

        August 24, 2013 at 10:54 pm |
        • Colin

          You do not appear bright enough to grasp the concept. Sorry about you.

          August 24, 2013 at 10:58 pm |
        • Dyslexic doG

          I grasp the concept of a child's fairy tale.

          you, unfortunately, believe the child's fairy tale.

          August 24, 2013 at 11:01 pm |
      • sam stone

        wow, condemn ourselves by being born. have fun grovelling before your pr1ck god, slaveboy

        August 25, 2013 at 11:11 am |
      • Doobs

        Colon's god games the system to feed its constant need for blood.

        August 25, 2013 at 1:28 pm |
      • G to the T

        You do realize no sane person that actually believed that would ever choose hell? So if that's the case, those who don't are either crazy, masochistic or ????

        Why should I be condemned for honest doubt?

        August 26, 2013 at 3:47 pm |
  2. Dyslexic doG

    Christians arguing stories from their bible vs. scientific facts is like arguing about Santa's sleigh flying ... sure it says it flies in the stories but the facts are that there is no Santa (sorry kids), there is no magic sleigh, and there are no magical reindeer to guide his sleigh tonight. Anyone using any story in the bible as a fact to argue against scientifically proven evidence is deluding themselves and annoying the sane.

    And you Christians wonder why we atheists sound annoyed all the time.

    August 24, 2013 at 10:20 pm |
    • Colin

      There is no dispute between science and the Bible. If there were no God there would be no science either.

      August 24, 2013 at 10:28 pm |
      • Dyslexic doG

        LOLOLOLOL ... good one ... very funny. 🙂

        August 24, 2013 at 10:32 pm |
    • Vic

      Christians founded ALL "Branches of Modern Science" and the "Modern Scientific Method."

      Have you ever read any "Christian Theology?" Superior sophistication!

      August 24, 2013 at 10:33 pm |
      • redzoa

        "Superior sophistry!"

        There . . . fixed it for ya . . .

        August 25, 2013 at 3:24 am |
      • Run of the Mouth hharri

        Christians...always taking credit for those things they are unworthy of...

        and denying credit for the horrific things for which they are responsible.

        Hmmm...incredible.

        August 25, 2013 at 5:01 am |
      • In Santa we trust

        Europeans who were largely ignorant of what was happening in China. Christianity can take little credit for scientific advances – remember what happened to Galileo et al? Darwin held back from publishing his findings because of the anticipated pushback from christianity. Newton ignored some findings because it did not match the theology of the time.
        It was a coincidence that christianity was the dominant religion in Europe.

        August 25, 2013 at 11:53 am |
      • Maani

        Red, Run, Santa:

        Sorry, boys, but Vic is correct. It is a well-known fact that it was Sir Francis Bacon, a devout Catholic, who fine-tuned what we now call the "scientific method."

        Re Galileo, it is perhaps instructive to consider that, despite the way the Church treated him, he remained a devout Catholic throughout his life; i.e., he never renounced his faith or even his belief in the tenets of the Catholic Church. And no, he did NOT do this out of fear; that claim has been thoroughly debunked...

        ...as has the claim that Darwin withheld his research on Origin because he was concerned about the response of the Church. Yes, that was ONE factor. But in numerous letters to colleagues who had been mentoring and/or working with him, he also made it clear that HE was unsure of some of his research, and needed time to be more certain.

        As for Newton, you have it exactly backward: Newton was angry that the people to whom he was providing his findings – i.e., people within the Church (who were funding most of his research) – were ignoring them or withholding them from publication.

        You REALLY need to bone up on modern research on these and other scientists. LOL.

        August 29, 2013 at 6:57 pm |
    • lol?? Pithiest, YES!!

      dawg,
      lol?? Pithiest, YES!!
      Your comment is awaiting moderation.
      Were you attracted to mommie AND yer wet nurse?? What does yer sciencie Freudie boy have to say about that??

      August 25, 2013 at 12:03 pm |
  3. Dyslexic doG

    Jon Acuff looks very happy ...

    August 24, 2013 at 10:20 pm |
  4. Just to clarify---

    The party was over a repentant sinner , not a celebration of sinfulness.

    August 24, 2013 at 9:46 pm |
  5. Lionly Lamb

    I am 58... I believe in the atomized cosmologies and the celestial cosmologies and in their culminations of establishing cellular cosmologies... Big bang universes are first born from the willpower of Spatially Infinite Nothingness which I submit being God's Spiritual Being... How else could there be an unending expanse of continuing big bang universes if not for God's spiritual essence being Spatially Infinite Nothingness..?

    Will science someday understand me and my viewpoints or will the people deny it as being the dementia of someone who is mentally unbalanced..? If you know me from my years of posting here then you know well my storied escapades that hardly ever waver...

    August 24, 2013 at 9:34 pm |
    • Mission: To encourage someone

      Johnny Depp and Tom Cruise are in their 50's and they never feel they are too old, why do you feel old in your fifties?

      August 24, 2013 at 9:50 pm |
    • bostontola

      Lionly,
      There are some scientists that have speculated that there could be many big bangs. They are trying to develop ways to test those hypotheses. Regarding whether some god initiated those big bangs, that is currently not in the realm of science, it is not even known whether that is knowable (i.e. we clearly don't know now, it is not known whether such a thing is knowable with any technology).

      August 24, 2013 at 9:51 pm |
  6. 7

    Everyone is invited to receive free music @... thetreasureofzion.com

    August 24, 2013 at 8:56 pm |
    • Apple Bush

      This is good. LMFAO

      August 24, 2013 at 8:58 pm |
  7. Now THIS is boring...

    Eating any salads. Salads are fucking boring.

    August 24, 2013 at 8:53 pm |
  8. Now THIS is boring...

    Eating the "garden salad" (such as it is....)

    August 24, 2013 at 8:51 pm |
  9. Now THIS is boring...

    Anything financial.

    August 24, 2013 at 8:50 pm |
  10. Now THIS is boring...

    Putting away dishes. I fucking hate that.

    August 24, 2013 at 8:49 pm |
  11. Now THIS is boring...

    The beer run.

    August 24, 2013 at 8:48 pm |
  12. Now THIS is boring...

    Playing five-stroke rolls.

    August 24, 2013 at 8:48 pm |
  13. Now THIS is boring...

    Cutting up a pomegranate

    August 24, 2013 at 8:47 pm |
  14. Colin

    If you find your Christianity boring it is because you would be a Christian in name only, you could not know Christ and be boring.

    August 24, 2013 at 8:38 pm |
    • bostontola

      That would mean that boring people have no hope of being saved, how sad.

      August 24, 2013 at 8:41 pm |
    • chuckie

      Now we have to worry that we will be damned becasue we are boring? It gets worse all the time.

      August 24, 2013 at 8:46 pm |
    • Doobs

      The eleventh commandment: Thou shalt not be boring.

      August 24, 2013 at 9:18 pm |
  15. Where is your god now?

    Saudi king offers help to 1,345-lb. man

    August 24, 2013 at 8:38 pm |
  16. Where is your god now?

    MORE TOP STORIES

    Dozens killed in prison fire, brawl

    August 24, 2013 at 8:35 pm |
    • Where is your god now?

      MORE TOP STORIES

      Loss of innocence for Syria's young

      August 24, 2013 at 8:36 pm |
  17. Where is your god now?

    More: WWII vet beaten to death
    Suspect tweeted: 'Time to start taken life's'

    August 24, 2013 at 8:34 pm |
  18. Brampt

    If you dont learn to love God and you dont see the bible as Gods Word and not something beneficial for your life...it might be boring.
    Like some people love soccer, other hate it... Whats the big fuss??

    August 24, 2013 at 8:33 pm |
  19. bostontola

    The bible is represented as the word of god and is perfect. The bible has 1) factual assertions, 2) laws of behavior, and 3) moral stories. As a perfect book of god's word it leaves much to be desired.

    1) many factual assertions are flat out wrong, e.g. In Genesis the sequence of creation is wrong and not even consistent throughout the bible. The science of creation was borrowed from the Sumerian creation myth and reflected the ideas of that time.
    2) many of the laws of behaviors are clearly just cultural norms of that time, e.g. Women should treat their husbands as a god, adulterers, ho.mose.xuals, and people who work on the sabbath must be put to death. There are many prescriptive laws defining the rules of slavery.
    3) the stories include genocide, the Israelites were instructed to erdicate all the Midianites, Caananites, and Amaakites, although young girls could be kept as slaves. God punished the descendants of law breakers in many cases. It goes on and on. It all made sense in the cultural context 2000-5000 years ago.

    The common theme is the facts, laws, and morals are all consistent with life millennia ago. If it was the word of god, it should have been timeless. God could have told us about his creation of the chemical elements in stars, alerted us to his creation of viruses and bacteria. The moral laws could have been higher level rather than so specific to that time. The moral stories, well enough said.

    When looking at the big picture of the scriptures, you have to ask yourself what is more likely, that it is A) the word of a timeless all powerful god, or B) a snapshot of man's understanding of the world and our place in it. B .

    August 24, 2013 at 8:27 pm |
    • Apple Bush

      I named my child "Templeton" after the rat in Charlotte's Web.

      August 24, 2013 at 8:30 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      B!

      August 24, 2013 at 8:32 pm |
    • Russ

      @ bostontola:

      [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UZAPFKXMy_Y&w=640&h=360]

      August 24, 2013 at 8:38 pm |
      • HotAirAce

        The old "you have to believe to believe" crap. . .

        August 24, 2013 at 8:47 pm |
        • Russ

          @ HotAir:
          1) you didn't watch the whole thing. watch the 90 seconds. he deals with bostontola's argument via polygamy & scholarship.

          2) you've also missed his point. it's not "believe to believe" – but that 'looking for a loophole' misses the main point of the faith. Christianity holds that Jesus IS the main point. So it makes sense to read the OT through Jesus (Jn.5:39-40; Lk.24:27,44) – and in particular, what you do with Jesus will change how you read the OT.

          that's all he's saying in the first half: if you believe in Jesus, you'll ask those questions differently. if not, what's the point? you've already dismissed the main thing.

          August 24, 2013 at 8:58 pm |
        • Apple Bush

          Read, wait don't read, read this, wait read them both but let me explain them to you.

          That is me waiting for cash.

          August 24, 2013 at 9:01 pm |
        • HotAirAce

          I watched every second of it. He brushed off polygamy as not as much fun as it might seem. He basic argument is if you accept jesus everything else makes sense, but at no time does he establish that jesus was the divine supernatural being mentally ill delusional believers want all to believe in.

          August 24, 2013 at 9:21 pm |
        • Russ

          @ HotAir:
          1) he did not brush off polygamy as "not as much fun." the point was that historical narratives can be read prescriptively or descriptively. polygamy is not prescribed, it is merely described. and – as he points out – everyone who practiced it suffered as a result. in other words, the text is actually subverting polygamy, not supporting it.

          2) no, he's pointing out how you read Scripture hinges on who you believe Jesus to be. he's not making a case for fideism. he's simply pointing out that Jesus is *more central* to the discussion.

          and again, that's only the first half of the video. the second half (as noted in #1 above) is making a literary case for how bostontola et al are misreading the text.

          August 24, 2013 at 10:14 pm |
        • HotAirAce

          He, you or any other believer can yap on about how to read The Babble but it is all irrelevant until you can prove the basic foundational beliefs, which nobody has done.

          August 25, 2013 at 6:14 am |
  20. Where is your god now?

    Trader Joe's says ARRGH!

    August 24, 2013 at 8:27 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.