"Thou hast conquered, O pale Galilean; the world has grown grey from thy breath."
Maybe you recognize this line from "Hymn to Proserpine" by Algernon Charles Swinburne; I remember reading the poem in a high school English course.
Swinburne, living in Victorian England, felt that Christian piety had sucked the joy out of life, forbidding the very things that bring pleasure to life. He longed for the days of unbridled paganism.
Sadly, Swinburne wasn't the first person to feel that way about Christianity, nor was he the last. Many look at Christians and see a somber lot, living a life filled with prohibitions. As the old line says, "Everything enjoyable is either illegal, immoral or fattening."
When you look at Jesus Christ himself, you see something very different. People looked at him and complained that he didn't follow enough rules. He went to parties with the wrong kind of people. Where other religious men lived ascetic lives, Jesus lived in a way that people accused him of being a glutton and a drunkard. The first recorded miracle that he performed involved providing wine for a marriage feast! Does that sound like a "pale Galilean"?
No! It's we Christians who have misunderstood what we're supposed to be. It's easy to think that saying no to everything is the best way to be holy. Even back in Bible times, this was a problem. The apostle Paul wrote to one church: "Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules: 'Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!'?" (Colossians 2:20-21). Even then, some thought that Christians were following a pale Galilean.
In his book "A Severe Mercy," Sheldon Vanuaken wrote:
The best argument for Christianity is Christians: their joy, their certainty, their completeness. But the strongest argument against Christianity is also Christians — when they are somber and joyless, when they are self-righteous and smug in complacent consecration, when they are narrow and repressive, then Christianity dies a thousand deaths.
If you think that Christianity is about living like a pale Galilean, you haven't been exposed to real Christianity. The Christian life is a life of joy, not sadness. It is a life of victory, not defeat. It is a life full of passion, not boredom.
Like Swinburne, I have no interest in following a pale Galilean. Unlike Swinburne, I know that Jesus Christ offers abundant life, colorful life, zestful life. If you'd like to know more about living a joyful life in Christ, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our HopeForLife.org website and join the discussion there.
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