Are We Ready for the Pursuit of Happiness? — Another Look at the Jason Collins Announcement with Matt Hatfield

From time to time, I like to add a fresh voice to this blog with the idea that there are some great writers out there who need a broader audience.  Today’s blog is one of those occasions and is written by my friend and fellow elder at Life Fellowship, Matt Hatfield.  You’ll find more information about him at the bottom of the page.  Take a few moments as he takes a deeper look at this week’s announcement by Jason Collins that he is a homosexual.  He was met with much affirmation from the media, sports world, politicians and other elites.  So what can the Believer learn as we digest the changes in cultural that appear to be unfolding with amazing rapidity.  Matt pokes us in the brain with this essay…

Are we ready for… the Pursuit of Happiness?

jason-collins.jpg“I think, I know, in my personal life, I’m ready, and I think the country is ready for supporting an openly gay basketball player,” Collins told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos.

Jason Collins, on his “coming out” as a gay athlete in the NBA.

Evangelicals will certainly look upon this moment as a continuation of the decline of morals in our country; the inevitable outcome of a society that has moved God from the back-burner into the garbage can.  The average American citizen?  They will think quietly to themselves, “well that’s not the way I roll… but who am I to judge?”  And life will go on as normal. 

But is there something that could be done?  Something that should be said?  How does the Christian respond in the face of a moment like this?  You know the moment.  It’s that instance when we find ourselves “not ready” for apparently what “the country is ready for.”

I don’t know Jason Collins… other than what he has said and what has recently been written about him.  He seems like a genuine enough man.  Likeable.  Not intent on doing anyone wrong.  Not wanting to stir the pot.  Just want to be who he wants to be.  A gay man in a culture wrestling with the whole idea of homosexuality… and tolerance… and acceptance. 

But in our spirit, there seems something amiss.  In a curious twist of fate, we find ourselves like the man coming out of the closet… wanting to speak up, needing to say something… but knowing that it may not be well received.  Knowing that we may be rejected.

What is it that we would say?

I think I’d say, “this isn’t right.  This is not God’s plan.  This is not what His heart desires.”  I know that the culture has applauded the courage of Mr. Collins to stand up for what he feels, how am I to applaud that which I believe grieves the heart of God?  And while I know the chorus of “thou shalt not judge” would rain down… I think I’d know that declaring what is right & just is not what was being rebuked by Jesus when He warned His followers about judging one’s neighbor.  Warning about consequences is different than rendering the judgment.  The former is to be undertaken by God’s children… the latter is certainly up to God.

You see.  God has a set of rules.  And for the most part, these rules are set in place to maintain order.  Keep us healthy.  Keep us safe.  These principles allow us to know God’s heart and to know what is pleasing and displeasing to Him.  And while one of the things we discover when we study His word is that His love for us is immeasurable.  We also discover that God cares little for man’s opinion on things.  He is not a politician.  He doesn’t take votes.  The majority doesn’t rule.  Frankly, God is about God – and that which would oppose Him is often met with severe consequences.  Further, while God wants His children to have joy… defining our own basis for happiness is not all that important to God either.  Which makes Mr. Collins’ following statement both naïve and frightening.

“I hope that every player makes a decision that leads to their own happiness, whatever happiness that is in life,” Collins responded. “I know that I, right now, am the happiest that I’ve ever been in my life.”

In this short little statement, we can find the crux of the problem with not just Mr. Collins, or our country… but with the psyche and condition of all men.  The pursuit of happiness

Now such a phrase will evoke almost universal positive feelings in the heart of any red-blooded American because it harkens to the core of our country’s value system.  Such is why the founders of our country felt compelled to include the proclamation in the Declaration of Independence.  And though it was penned with noble intentions by mostly noble men… there are consequences for even the best of intentions.  As an aside, Satan is a master of twisting good intentions to serve his purposes.  Thus, the quandary we are in today.  By slowly allowing the rhetoric of literal definitions to expunge the meanings of original intentions… man now, cannot just pursue happiness, he can define it.  And once man is given the opportunity to take a Sharpie marker and strike out God’s definitions, we are in trouble.

And to be sure, we are in trouble.

Not just because Mr. Collins “came out” but because of the underlying rationale behind.  Mr. Collins is not unlike most of us.  He believes that he has a right to pursue happiness.  This, however, is an American endowment.  It is not from God.  God calls us to pursue, Him, first… not happiness.  If pursuing personal happiness becomes our mantra, then we have indeed declared our independence from God.  What irony.

What we will discover in our pursuit of God is that He has standards that are far different from those which flow naturally from our bodies.  Honestly, our personal appetites would generally make God wretch.  People don’t like to hear this.  But somewhere along the way, we bought into a doctrine that equated our happiness with God’s happiness as if God’s sole objective is to create and raise “happy” children.  We even have a phrase for it… “God wants me to be happy.”  This little cliché has become the magic potion that dissolves marriages, erases debts, covers over wrongs… It’s a cure-all – a man-made tonic on an oblivious but welcoming conscious, dulling our senses and mind until we no longer know right from wrong. 

What God wants is for His creation to pursue Him… and leave the defining of “happiness” up to Him.  He warns us to “take every thought captive” for a reason.  Thoughts can be dangerous.  Many should be jettisoned.  Too many thoughts start with the premise, “how can I make this work out the best for me?” rather than simply, “what does God’s Word say?”

Now when most of you started reading this article, you probably thought that it was going to give a Biblical response to homosexuality.  I don’t think that is really what is needed.  The Bible is quite clear on the matter – to suggest otherwise is simply putting one’s head in the sand.  Homosexuality is a sin.  Whether by nature or nurture, it is out of the scope of God’s desire for His children.  But He has a plan of restoration for all sin – including this one. 

In the end, I think what is important is that we do an honest assessment.  One that has less to do with sexual orientation – as most of us do not personally struggle with homosexuality.  But we all struggle with sin.  And sin at its core is a feeding of personal appetites to make us happy.  So… are you pursuing happiness… or are you pursuing God?

matth.pngMatt Hatfield is a businessman and one of the founding elders of Life Fellowship Church in the Lake Norman region of metropolitan Charlotte, NC.  He has a degree in Philosophy from Davidson College and attended Dallas Theological Seminary in pursuit of his Masters.  He is married and has three children and lives in Huntersville, North Carolina.

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