Quick, what does God have in common with the Beastie Boys? Back in 1986, the Beastie Boys told everyone to fight for their right to party. Back in Leviticus 23, God told everyone to party or he would kill them.
I know you’re skeptical, but stick with me. In the Old Testament, God set up a series of annual festivals for his people. They were designed to be commemorative and anticipatory, celebrating what he had done and what he would do next.
In the New Testament, we repeatedly see Jesus at parties. So much so that it led to an accusation the religious leaders made against him: “Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners” (Matt. 11:19). Jesus also compared God’s kingdom to a party and, in a famous trilogy of stories, taught that when someone turns to God, a party breaks out in heaven (Luke 15).
In the Bible, there’s a clear and consistent party theology. Missiologist Alan Hirsch says, “Party is sacrament.” Could it be we have lost something vital God wants for his people?
It turns out that throwing a party is a great way to reach people one at a time. In fact, one year our church made it an emphasis. We asked our people to throw parties in a way that would allow them to love and serve others in Jesus’ name and to help those who had rejected Jesus to get a new picture of him and his followers.
After all, Jesus’ followers don’t just dutifully go to parties when invited—they throw parties. In Luke 5, Jesus was walking along when he “saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth. ‘Follow me,’ Jesus said to him, and Levi got up, left everything and followed him” (vv. 27–28).
Levi (better known as Matthew) was at the top of everyone’s most-despised list. The religious leaders wouldn’t allow him into the temple. Yet Jesus invited him to be his disciple. If you’re Levi, what do you do next? “Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them” (v. 29).
In other words, he threw a party. He invited a bunch of his friends who were far from God, and he invited Jesus. It was the perfect opportunity for his friends to get a real picture of who Jesus really was.
The Pharisees were aghast and demanded that Jesus answer their accusing question: “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” (v. 30). Jesus answered, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (vv. 31–32).
I love that. Jesus is basically saying, “Of course parties, of course sinners. What did you expect?”
Kyle Idleman, One at a Time, Baker, a division of Baker Publishing Group, © 2022. Used by permission of the publisher. www.bakerpublishinggroup.com.
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