In his March 7, 2011 blog entitled Mardi Gras Culture in the Bible Belt South Russell Moore (www.russellmoore.com) points out a startling connection between the celebration of Mardi Gras, as a lead-up to the Lenten Season for Roman Catholics, and the “Wild Oats” time many evangelical Christians go through in their late teens and early twenties, as a lead-up to a more “settled down” life of church involvement.
Near the end of his blog Moore concludes, “The end result of this kind of ‘Christianity’ is as bleak as the morning after Mardi Gras. Settling down isn’t the same as repentance. Giving up one appetite for another isn’t the same as grace.” His conclusion is one of which we all need to grab hold. How many of us are Mardi Gras Christians? That is, we grew up in the church, went and sowed our wild oats (a la the prodigal son), and then settled down. Notice I did not say that we returned as the prodigal did – contrite, seeking forgiveness. We simply returned as if nothing was out of the ordinary. We had our “Mardi Gras” time of life and now it’s the “Lenten Season”. Time to settle down.
I would daresay that such a description fits more than a few of us and that we are okay with that. But should we be? And, is it okay if our kids go through the same experience? Besides, have we truly settled down? Is settling down even enough? Our behavior may not be as riotous but have we been brought to the point of submission to Christ? Perhaps we look more respectable – we have a good job, the kids are all provided for, we pay our tithe, and serve on a committee or two at church – but did we ever repent of turning from Jesus in the first place? Did we come back seeking forgiveness or did we return expecting that Christ would simply overlook our hiatus of sinfulness?
In Romans 6:1-2, 10-11 Paul asks and then answers a series of questions that are fitting for this discussion. “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? … For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” It is not normative or responsible to engage in a “Mardi Gras” season of life. It is in fact unacceptable biblically, but there is forgiveness for every prodigal who returns repentant. In fact, for the repentant soul there is a heavenly celebration to be had that puts any Mardi Gras parade to shame (Luke 15:22-24; Hebrews 12:22-24; Revelation 21:1-5).
The disappointing truth is that so many have returned without repentant hearts. We have returned, saying effectively, “Well I got that out of my system. Now I’m ready to come back and settle down.” Such a return does not display the grace of having died to our sin with Christ. If we have not died with Him how can we hope to be raised with Him to new life?
We live in a world in which it is “always Mardi Gras and never Easter,” Moore says, but that does not and should not define us as Christians. Instead, may we be the people whose lives display the fact that for those in Christ it is always Good Friday and always Easter! In the remaining weeks before we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord may we ponder anew that God has not overlooked any of our sins. He has dealt with them, each and every one, on the cross through the sacrifice of His Son, Christ Jesus. Let us also consider the truth that through the grace of repentance we have died together with Him to our sin and now live eternal days of Easter – having been made alive together with Christ. In Jesus we have not simply settled down, we have been redeemed and raised to new life. In Him there is no longer Mardi Gras but always Easter. To that I say, Amen!