One of the weirdest penalties you can get in football (American football, not soccer) is one for “excessive celebrating.” When you come from behind, it looks like all is lost, and by some miracle you manage to catch an interception and run it all the way back for a touchdown, if you were to jump up and down a little too enthusiastically, dance a little too wildly, or holler a bit too loudly, they dock you yardage for “excessive celebrating.”
So no, I don’t think the winners should shove it in the faces of their opponents that they are losers, nor make anyone feel bad for losing. But that’s “unsportsmanlike conduct.” Excessive celebrating is a different thing.
Since the days the Puritans arrived in the New World, there’s been a bit of a solemn, quiet, subdued pall cast over Christianity. There is an implication that we should not be too exuberant about our salvation, that we’d better not take full advantage of all the riches of grace, that we cannot boast about what we have been given, lest it be prideful or seen as such, that too wide a grin is not reverent, and that if we were to, God forbid, dance in joy over our salvation, there’s a very real question of whether we even have that salvation in the first place.
It’s almost like we’re afraid we’ll get docked for excessive celebrating.
No, I do not want to rub it in the faces of those who have not experienced salvation that I have something they don’t have… Or do I? Were the Gentiles not brought into the family of God expressly to make the Jews jealous so that they too would come to Christ (Romans 11:13-14)? Am I not supposed to exhibit something so attractive, so desirable, so incredible to the world that they desperately want what I have and ask about it?
We are supposed to boast. Not in ourselves, but in who God is, in knowing Him, in having Him for ourselves (Jeremiah 9:23-24). We are supposed to rejoice in what we have. Always (Philippians 4:4). And if someone were to stop us in the street for dancing and call it undignified, God might just strike them barren in response (2 Samuel 6:20-23). Because if God’s people are silent, the rocks will cry out (Luke 19:40).
I have come from behind, all was lost, and by some miracle, I have been snatched from the jaws of hell, what else would be my response but to celebrate–excessively? After all, that’s what the angels in heaven do as soon as they hear of it (Luke 15:10). When my sins are gone, is there such a thing as being too exuberant? When heaven is mine, is there such a thing as shouting too loudly? When Jesus has saved my soul, is there such a thing as dancing too wildly? Is there such a thing as excessive when the thing I’m celebrating is Jesus?
Ecclesiastes says there is a time for everything. A time for noise, and for silence, for seriousness and for joy (Ecclesiastes 3:4). I do not want to dishonor my God by neglecting to ever take Him seriously, for never feeling the weight of my former state and His eternal glory. But neither do I want to dishonor Him for responding with less than exuberant joy for the most incredible gift He could have given to me. If and when I am compelled to celebrate, nothing is too loud, too much, too great to offer to my Savior.