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Intended for pleasure

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Doesn’t Christianity condemn desire - the Puritans and all that?

Not at all. Quite the contrary. Christianity takes desire seriously - far more seriously than the stoic or the mere hedonist. Christianity refuses to budge from the fact that man was made for pleasure, that his beginning and his end is a paradise, and that the goal of living is to find Life. Jesus knows the dilemma of desire and he speaks to it in nearly everything he says.

When it comes to the moral question, it is neither simply yes or no to desire, but always what we do with our desire. Christianity recognizes that we have desire gone mad within us. But it does not seek to rectify the problem by killing desire; rather, it seeks the healing of desire, just as it seeks the healing of every other part of our human being.

"Two things contribute to our sanctification," wrote Pascal. "Pains and pleasures." And while we know that our journey is strewn with danger and difficulty, "the difficulties they meet with are not without pleasure, and cannot be overcome without pleasure."

Where do you find Jesus saying, "The problem with you people is, you want too much. If you’d just learn to be happy with less, we’d all get along just fine." "My commands are for your good," he says, "always."

Something has gone wrong in us, very wrong indeed. So wrong that we have to be told that joy is not found in having another man’s wife, but in having our own. But the point is not the law, the point is the joy. Need I say more than this: Modern Christianity has brought an entire group of people to the point where they have to be told that sex is, in the words of one book, "intended for pleasure."

God is realistic. He knows that ecstasy is not an option; we are made for bliss and we must have it, one way or another. He also knows that happiness is fragile and rests upon a foundation greater than happiness. All the Christian disciplines were formulated at one time or another in an attempt to heal desire’s waywardness, and so by means of obedience, bring us home to bliss. Walter Brueggemann suggests that faith on its way to maturity moves from "duty to delight." If it is not moving, then it has become stagnant. If it has changed the goal from delight to duty, it has gone backwards; it is regressing. This is the great lost truth of the Christian faith, that correction of Judaism made by Jesus and passed on to us:

The goal of morality is not morality - it is ecstasy. You are intended for pleasure!

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