A recent discussion on the life of Jesus, however, highlighted for me just how contrary this stereotype is. Jesus didn’t shy away from a good party. You could even say parties are a major part of the gospel.
You see, the bulk of Luke 14-15 is set within the context or has the theme of parties:
- Lessons at a dinner party - 14:1-14
- Parable of the party - 14:15-24
- Party over finding one lost sheep - 15:1-7
- Party at finding one lost coin - 15:8-10
- Party at the return of a son - 15:11-32
One friend describes this section of Luke as lessons on “party etiquette.” The question isn’t if Christians should party. Jesus assumes partying. It’s how we party that matters.
And so Jesus talks about being a good party guest - one who doesn’t make excuses, or take the limelight, or get bitter when others seem to be having more fun. To be a good guest means just being at the party is good enough. Party attendance is a gift, not a right. The best party, according to Jesus’ party etiquette, is the gathering of the humble (notice: no talk of dancing, cards, or drinking!).
Jesus also talks about being a good party host. Parties aren’t for developing, maintaining, or improving one’s social status (sorry housewife reality TV shows!). Even Jesus knew the traps of social competition (e.g. “I did this for you, now you have to do this for me”). Jesus redefines a good party. Who is there still matters, but who is there is not who we’d expect. Hosts are to invite the stranger, the outcast, the poor, the sick, the lost. Being a good party host is more than being the life of the party - it’s about throwing a party that offers life.
It’s safe to say, Jesus loved to party. Again, we don't ask should we party, but how we party. The question, then, is this:
What’s your party etiquette?