Preston Harold takes us through Jesus’ approach to life; what He sees as essential to having life in abundance. In a private correspondence Henry Miller once wrote: “It’s not that I put the sage or saint above the artist. It’s rather that I want to see established the ‘artist of life.’ The Christ resurrected would be such, for example.”
No theology, acting on command of or by the example Jesus set, may prescribe a stern approach to life, prohibiting eating and drinking of any food of liquid except on the ground that it is offensive to the one partaking of it; what offends one must be cast out of his life, but nothing that enters a man defiles him. Jesus was called glutton and drunkard. He did not deny that He ate and drank as He chose – He stated that wisdom vindicates ascetic or nonascetic practices:
For John the Baptist has come, eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, “He has a devil”; the Son of man has come eating and drinking, and you say, “Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of taxgatherers and sinners!” Nevertheless, Wisdom is vindicated by all her children. –Luke 7:33
Jesus provided wine at the wedding of Cana… The teaching and practice of Jesus, however, does not invite drunkenness or gluttony. He teaches that there is nothing in life that cannot be used to further its joy and abundance when man has learned to control himself.
The richness of life must be leavened, and Jesus says the working or coming of the kingdom of God is leavening it. He saw that men must grasp the art of play:
To what then shall I compare the men of this generation? What are they like? Like children sitting in the marketplace and calling to one another, “We piped to you and you would not dance, we lamented and you would not weep. –Luke 7:31,32
Music and voices call men into action – life calls, nature calls: dance, laugh, weep, join us!
Jesus reveled in nature. Any living thing was precious to him. He sought the open beauty of mountains and sea, the solitude of far places. He came also to the cities, the marketplace, the feasts, and to the temple. He allowed the extravagant. He aided the poor, but He did not extol the mean bone of poverty. He respected the Sabbath, but employed it to His own pursuits. He despised exhibitions of piety, vain repetitions, brutality and self-debasement. His was a total empathy, a compassionate rendering, an exquisite edition of the art of life.
Beautifully stated! But then comes a wrench in the spokes:
Jesus knew the very glory of life – knew that even the stones would shout it, if men did not. And yet, the Gospel of St. John presents an enormous contradiction as regards Jesus’ love of life in this world. He says:
He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth this life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal. -John 12:25
Against these words are posed the example He set and the statement that He came “not to judge the world,” but that man might have life abundantly… What then could Jesus have meant [by this contradicition]?
It is this we will tackle in our next post. Until then, peace…