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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. Caleb Boone

    Dear Mr. Acuff:

    I agree.

    Christians have the Joy of the Lord!

    We are to witness the Salvation, Personality and Presence of Jesus to everyone, all the time.

    Jesus' Power, Life, Love, Forgiveness, Blessing, Healing, Joy and Peace are to pour forth from us in the Power of the Holy Spirit.

    The Holy Spirit will draw all men unto us.

    Hallelujah!

    Sincerely yours,
    Caleb Boone.

    August 24, 2013 at 10:00 am |
    • ff

      Hey dude. I think your theology is a bit screwy. Who is the "us" that you are referring to? If you mean the "Church" you are dead wrong. Christ himself says, "If I be lifted up, I will draw all men to myself" Note the "to myself" does not refer to the "Church". Furthermore, Christ goes on to say, "No man can come unto me unless the Father draws him to me". In both cases Christ is making reference to himself and not the "Church"

      August 24, 2013 at 11:24 am |
  2. Amy

    Is this author Protestant? Catholics know how to party!

    August 24, 2013 at 9:59 am |
    • franco

      Catholics are Christians?????

      August 24, 2013 at 10:09 am |
      • Valerie

        Really Franco? Where do you think EVERY other Christian church derived from? Time to break our your history book. : )

        August 24, 2013 at 10:12 am |
        • Luke

          Valery, my history book says that the Orthodox is the ancient apostolic Church. 😉

          August 24, 2013 at 11:38 am |
        • franco

          This is not the place but ask Catholics themselves.They will tell you that. Christianity did not come from Catholicism, it came from the Bible (and nothing else). So you ask dividing question, don't be offended when someone answers.

          August 24, 2013 at 11:39 am |
        • Sara

          "They will tell you that. Christianity did not come from Catholicism, it came from the Bible (and nothing else)."

          It's a good thing Jesus left behind that bible all tied up in a little bow.

          Oh..hmmm...

          August 24, 2013 at 2:49 pm |
    • Valerie

      Hahaha! Amy I agree I was not three lines into this article and the first think in my head was, "us catholics certainly know how to party!"...........I still enjoyed the article and I get what the author was saying. I really liked this!! A great reminder on how Christians can evangelize by LIVING Jesus' words and not preaching them to ears unwilling to hear- just yet! ; )

      August 24, 2013 at 10:11 am |
  3. Forgiven2

    Until you truly give Christ a chance to change your life, and I mean really give Him a chance, you really don't know how much He loves you AND wants you to extend that same sacrificial love others. As Christians, most are trying to follow His ways, but since we are still human and sinners, will continue to mess up. As for fun, well..., when you follow Him, your definition of fun might change a little, because your purpose in life has been redirected. Not that there's anything wrong with having a good old fashioned party once in a while.

    August 24, 2013 at 9:57 am |
    • steve

      He loves you? Its like your father telling you he loves you but if you disagree with him on a philosophical point, he will lift you up and place you in his BBQ for eternity. Intolerance is not love. Fact is, the bible is abhorrently violent and focuses on retribution for disbelievers (as does Islam). Difference is that Atheists (in general) can recognize evil when they see it. Point out to a christian that god (in Isaiah) is vengeful and will dash people's children into pieces and watch them rationalize it, claiming context or some other ludicrous defense. As long as god does it, it is good, hence there is no standard of moraility, only god's changing whim. When you rationalize the torture for eternity of non-believers, your humanity dies and philosophically you become evil in a sense. It is like being a Nazi who supported the holocaust but did not kill any jews himself. You are still pretty evil. Now, do i suggest retribution against those I call evil? No. Not at all. But then that is the difference isn't it?

      August 24, 2013 at 12:23 pm |
      • Justin

        You should definitely find a local Seventh-Day Adventist church to explain to you the real hell in Bible. It's not an eternal burning hell.

        August 24, 2013 at 5:46 pm |
        • Cpt. Obvious

          Justin, there's no reliable method of determining whose viewpoint of hell is correct, the SDA or any other view. Don't you wish there was a way, though? Oh well, there's always math and chemistry if you want verifiability, I guess.

          August 24, 2013 at 5:52 pm |
  4. Gant

    Christianity was a brilliant form of religious populace control (Charlemagne was a genius), but I think it's time is on the decline. You can sort of tell by the attempts to keep it going with this this 'party' theory. The free party beer will run out eventually; maybe not this century, but it's finally the end of the line coming up.

    August 24, 2013 at 9:52 am |
    • America is Lost

      Charlemegne was no more a true Christian than any pope/catholic that ever walked this earth

      August 24, 2013 at 10:01 am |
  5. Dan

    I say we take it to another level Jon. I say let's expand above and beyond our Judeo-Christian limitations. I don't go to church because I simply don't buy into the dogma anymore. I'm a deist and I think there is something out there( I don't know that for certain, but I believe at some level there is something outside of this reality). But we simply don't know enough to make a determination. If there is a God,I figure IT be ok on IT'S own. While we are here on earth, lets contribute and enjoy the people places and things we know for absolute certain.

    August 24, 2013 at 9:52 am |
  6. Chris

    The real question is why don't Christians follow the teaching of Jesus? They conveniently ignore the "love your enemies" bit.

    August 24, 2013 at 9:51 am |
    • America is Lost

      You know Chris, you won't get any argument from me on that one. At best, we don't set a very good example; at worst, it just shows how many false beliefs are out there and just how big the Devil's church is.

      But that also doesn't mean by loving even our enemy we have to approve of them and their ways and lifestyles either, nor accepting of them. Those are two different things that get confused in the argument all too often.

      August 24, 2013 at 10:00 am |
    • Luke

      No, we don't ignore it. True Christians don't ignore anything. No one on earth loves his enemies like Christians do. See the Coptic Christians of Egypt for the latest example. They don't raise a hand against radical Muslims when they attack them and destroy their ancient churches.

      August 24, 2013 at 11:44 am |
    • Maani

      Bravo, Chris. It is indeed the rare Christian that understands the depth of the entirety of that passage, which is worth providing in context:

      "Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust."

      Unfortunately, too many Christians think this was simply a nice "suggestion." Not so. It was stated in the form of an admonition, if not a commandment. And they do so because, as you imply, actually living up to this is arguably the most difficult single teaching of Jesus' ministry. (Along with John's statement that, "Greater love hath no man than this; that a man lay down his life for his friends.")

      Peace.

      August 24, 2013 at 1:33 pm |
  7. eil1een

    Well done! Love this.

    August 24, 2013 at 9:51 am |
  8. His Noodly Master

    Well, Christianity may be boring, but it certainly provides rich fodder for the rest of us to laugh at. Especially Mormons, what a riot.

    Please, keep up with the weapons-grade crazy. It's hilarious.

    August 24, 2013 at 9:50 am |
    • Ick.

      Mormons are not Christians; they are their own special brand of crazy. They claim to be, but when you dig past the surface of what they share right away, you find that they don't even worship the same Jesus and they don't use the bible as their authority, but the writing of John Smith who loosely based some of his stuff on the bible kinda. Really. a lot of the similarity only lies in using some of the same "big" names and "I was smoking something I shouldn't have" versions of our stories.

      Please don't lump their crazy with our crazy. 😛

      August 24, 2013 at 10:14 am |
      • Sara

        Mormons do use the Bible as an authority and they do respect Jesus as a god...just one of many.

        August 24, 2013 at 2:52 pm |
      • OTOH

        Ick,
        "a lot of the similarity only lies in using some of the same "big" names and "I was smoking something I shouldn't have" versions of our stories."

        Pretty much what the Jews said / say about your New Testament.

        August 24, 2013 at 2:57 pm |
  9. Casey

    Hey Yea! Less boring. lets see, we can maybe have car chases, and a chorus line of dancing girls. Maybe some explosions, a rock band, and guys jumping around on pogo sticks. This is a stupid stupid article. People of Faith go to Church to Worship God. We are not there to be entertained. If you think it needs to be less boring... I don't think you understand your Faith.

    August 24, 2013 at 9:49 am |
    • Tom

      I would go to Church if they had car chases and dancing girls. That sounds better then some blowhard on the stage.

      August 24, 2013 at 10:27 am |
  10. Craig

    How about concentrating on whether it's true/right/accurate/in the best interests of humanity or not instead of concentrating on a marketing plan.

    August 24, 2013 at 9:46 am |
  11. joey

    its simple, there is no god or gods. its all made up by amwayish humans to explain what they couldn't.

    August 24, 2013 at 9:46 am |
    • Dave

      Made up by the same humans who made up the universe, no doubt.

      August 24, 2013 at 11:25 am |
  12. John P. Tarver

    If your Christianity is dry and boring, perhaps there is a problem with your faith.

    August 24, 2013 at 9:44 am |
  13. America is Lost

    Why do people feel the need to change Church? God does NOT change and has NOT changed since the beginning of time, and was very clear in his instructions of how we're supposed to worship HIM. We worship HIM, not us, and it's according to HIS will, not ours. Quit messing around with it, set it back up like it's supposed to be, and follow the Lord's instructions people.

    August 24, 2013 at 9:44 am |
    • Picaman

      The word of God is an anvil that has worn out many hammers.

      August 24, 2013 at 9:53 am |
    • One one

      " set it back up like it's supposed to be"

      Well, there are over 35,000 denominations of Christianity. Which one is like it's supposed to be ?

      Catholics ? Normans ? Southern baptists ? Pentecostals? Coptic Christians? Methodists? etc. etc.

      August 24, 2013 at 10:01 am |
      • Daniel Zaliski

        Normans, hahahahahaha

        August 24, 2013 at 10:11 am |
        • Norm

          Someone call?

          August 24, 2013 at 2:43 pm |
  14. Ryan

    Well the major issue with Christianity is the fact that its the same no matter where you go. It's steeped in tradition and any change on that tradition is met with grumbles. I am a Lutheran and use to go to church often. But the thing I got out of church was a sense of community. I would love to go back to church but I don't like the feeling of having to go all the time to feel the Lords love. I enjoy my weekends to unwind from the week, to take my suit off and relax. I think what churches need to do more is become less traditional and more modern. Stop the infighting between churches and start working together. One example. My friends asked me to be their daughters Godfather, but because I was Lutheran and not Catholic it was not permitted. Why is this? Essentially Christianity is Christianity regardless of what faith you are. Alaska is one of the places that they take turns blessing the fishing fleet. All the churches gather together and the one religion that was selected this year gives the blessing of the fleet. All the other religions pray and follow along with the scripture. Why? Because it's a common bond. We believe in the same God, we just have different ideas about Jesus, that's it. It's time we put down our differences and find the common bond and the sense of community rather than worrying about what faith you are, or how you were baptized.

    August 24, 2013 at 9:44 am |
  15. Jan

    This is a story of forgiveness. It is analogy to the way God reacts when we repent and come to Him. The Bible says that even the angels in heaven rejoice when a sinner finds forgiveness. I guess that you could say that there is a party when a lost person comes home! Because of forgiveness, Christians should be the happiest people on earth!

    August 24, 2013 at 9:44 am |
  16. C Davis

    tom g, please reread the scripture. No where does it say the boy truly repented. He like most of us was only thinking of himself and his current situation. He realized his father's servants had it better and crafted his apology speech to persuade his father to accept him as a servant. No where does it read that he for sure had a repentive heart.

    August 24, 2013 at 9:44 am |
    • John P. Tarver

      Eating nut hulls could get one to repentance soon.

      August 24, 2013 at 9:46 am |
    • Wil Sessions

      The act of the son returning was a symbol of repentance. His changed heart pursueded him to return. It's a story of Jesus pointing to his father as gracious, welcoming him with loving arms... If you left your father, asked for you inheritance, which was interpreted as "You're as good as dead to me..", and search for something greater, but failed to find it, you too would return to your father. But would you expect him to throw a party for you? Heck No! It points to a gracious and loving Savior. It's a mirror of us as people. We have tried to find something greater apart from Christ, and we fail to find it, sometimes it takes more to see it, and sometimes we never see it. Hope this is helpful. Not trying to argue, but give a different perspective of how this scripture has impacted my life. Thanks for reading . Wil Sessions

      August 24, 2013 at 10:06 am |
    • tom g

      @C Davis – if I wanted to argue about it, I'd have a valid counter-point to your statement by saying 'No where does it say the boy didn't repent'. But we have to do more than just 'read' the scriptures. We have to have the Holy Spirit to understand what he's saying. The reason why the father ran to the son was because he knew the boy had repented and turned back to him. That is how God the Father deals with all of us. If we repent and humble ourselves to the level of servant-hood and turn to him in belief of the work of Jesus Christ's blood and baptism in the Holy Ghost – he will receive us. If not – all that's left is chaff that will be burnt up. That's just the way it is. Most mainstream Christians have huge problem when even the very 'repent' is brought up – yet that is the first word out of the mouths of both John the Baptist and Jesus Christ himself...go figure.

      August 24, 2013 at 1:57 pm |
  17. Stunned at the hypocrisy

    May personal favorite part of the Bible is that part where Jesus drives all the poor people into the sea. At least that what the religious right is selling. Hypocrites all.

    August 24, 2013 at 9:42 am |
    • Baffled at Stunned 's Claim

      Stunned, can you cite that scripture please?

      August 24, 2013 at 9:52 am |
    • Zedd

      There was the time he drove all the possessed pigs into the sea... which may be the same thing.

      August 24, 2013 at 9:57 am |
    • Casey

      You speak of Hypocrisy? That's hilarious. You take a part of the Bible, improperly characterize it, give no background, context, or understanding of what was surrounding the event... and yet hold it out for ridicule. Look in the mirror my friend. I am quite sure you are very impressed with yourself, and know that you are far more honest than anyone else. You consider yourself an intellectual when really you're just another shallow and hypocritical bone head, who wouldn't know real study and research if it jumped up and bit you in the pancreas.

      August 24, 2013 at 9:57 am |
    • Troll Hunter

      Found anther one.

      August 24, 2013 at 10:07 am |
      • G to the T

        Me too!

        August 26, 2013 at 11:23 am |
  18. John P. Tarver

    I have enjoyed a number of Christian pot lucks, but the food addicts are there as well.

    August 24, 2013 at 9:35 am |
  19. Nomad

    Sounds like more and more people are tired of the false promises of a warn out religion.

    August 24, 2013 at 9:34 am |
    • Blakbeatle

      Hi Nomad, may the grace of our Lord show you that this way of faith is fresh and new and revitalized every day. Nothing is worn out, all is new. Believe in your heart and confess with your mouth that Yeshua (Jesus) is the Messiah, that he died for our salvation, was raised from the dead, reigns at the right hand of God and will return for all who call upon his name–do this and you will be transformed into a new creature. Your life will never be the same. Godspeed, my friend.

      August 24, 2013 at 9:50 am |
      • G to the T

        You make a huge (though understandable) assumption that many of us were never Christians. Personally, I was a christian for almost half my life and believed it utterly. But as I started to study biblical history and religion in general, the less I found I could believe in it's tenets.

        Please do not belittle what was for many of us an extremely difficult journey by assuming we "just weren't doing it right" or the like.

        August 26, 2013 at 11:32 am |
  20. tom g

    you left out one thing – like most mainstream Christians today leave out – the boy repented and then turned to his Father. The message of the gospel doesn't change with the culture. You can talk as hip as you can to try to 'reach' the youth – but Jesus still commands: Repent and pick up your cross and follow ME. God ain't just 'throwing a party' because it sounds cool. His son is to marry a bride without a spot or a blemish and if you want to be there you best repent and forsake this stupid and evil world.

    August 24, 2013 at 9:33 am |
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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.