What the Fyre Festival Says About Our Desire for "Life Together"
What does the story of the Fyre Festival have to do with Jesus? Surprisingly, quite a bit. The infamous music festival, as portrayed on Netflix and Hulu, was the fiasco of a few guys who had big dreams, bad implementation, and worse motives. The festival was meant to be a three-day, luxurious gathering of the rich, beautiful, and famous, eating good food together, listening to good music together, and celebrating life together on a white, sandy beach of an exotic island in the Bahamas. The promotional video, portraying celebrities and supermodels celebrating on the exotic island, captured the imagination of thousands. Within 48 hours, it was sold out.
The main theme of the story of the Fyre Festival is the level of fraud committed by its founder; but another theme that is perhaps less obvious is the deep human desire for life together. And we as a society are just now realizing how desperate we are for it. The rugged individualism of the American mindset, isolation enhanced by technology like smartphones and earbuds, and social media all attribute to what’s now being seen as an epidemic of loneliness for Americans--especially college students. Recent studies show that at least 2 out of 3 college students felt “very lonely” in the last 12 months. And sociologists and counselors are connecting the epidemic to the soaring levels of self-harm, suicide, and drug-addiction.
Jesus and His Friends
This is where Jesus comes in. One of my favorite stories about Jesus is the last story of the book of John. This story happens after Jesus was crucified and resurrected from the dead. Jesus’ disciples, his closest friends, are out at sea fishing on a boat. When they see Jesus on the shore from afar, they excitedly go as fast as possible towards him:
“When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid out on it and bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught...“Come and have breakfast.”
Jesus wanted to have a picnic breakfast on the beach with his friends. This should blow all of our typical categories of God out of the water. The eternal God of the Universe, after subjecting himself to humanity and the cross, after conquering sin and Hell and resurrecting from the dead, wants to sit around a campire and enjoy a meal with his friends. This is life together at its fullest.
Imagining Life Together
The reason we so deeply desire life together is that we were created for it. Christianity has a unique perspective of humanity in that it says we are made in the image of a relational God who exists in relationship to Himself in the three persons of the Trinity: the Father, the Son, and the Spirit. When he makes us in his image, he makes us relational as well; making us to live life together with Him and with each other.
Many of us get the idea that God wants a relationship with us. What we lack is the imagination of life together with God’s people. Here is what Jesus imagined for his followers: “A new commandment I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so also you must love one another.” (John 13:34); “The greatest among you will be your servant.” (Matthew 23:11); “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.” (Romans 12:10); “In humility consider others as more important than yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3); “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” (Romans 12:15)
You see, being made in the image of the relational Trinity means that we take on the characteristics of His relationship, namely, love and deference to the other. When Jesus was on earth he was constantly saying that he was here not to do his will, but the will of his Father. The Father says Jesus is his “beloved Son,” and gives him the name that is above every name. Jesus says the Spirit is greater than himself. The Spirit points people not to himself, but to Jesus; He writes the bible and makes Jesus the main character. The Trinity is constantly loving and deffering to the other.
Imagine if we did life together like the Trinity. All would be known deeply, loved purely, and deferred to constantly. Loneliness and its effects would cease to exist. People would not question if God is real because they would know him existentially by our love for one another. The weak would be held up by the strong, the hurting comforted by the healed. None would be oppressed or marginalized; all would be honored above the other. Imagine if we opened our homes, our dinner tables, our bank accounts, our embracing arms, indeed our very lives, to love and to live life together.
Towards the end of the Netflix documentary, one of the Fyre Festival planners, reflecting on all the people who were willing to pay a fortune to be there, said, “We all want access and exclusivity.” How true that is of our desire for life together. And how fulfilled it is in life together with Jesus and his people, loving one another and deferring to one another. Enjoying a picnic breakfast on the beach with Jesus and his friends--that is a truer Fyre Festival; that is life together.