Jesus & Joy
I’ve been thinking about joy a lot lately. I have not been thinking about all the technical distinctions we try to make between “joy” and “happiness”, though I suppose there is some validity in those distinctions. No, my thoughts have been more about whether or not joy is really evident in the Christian community. “Christian community” is probably too broad. As a Christian speaker and teacher, I get to go to a lot of different churches and Christian events where the presence of authentic joy is kind of hit-or-miss. Some places seem to bristle with joy. Others are as joyless as a funeral parlor.
It seems to me that there are two types of joyless Christians: those who realize something is missing and those who wear their joylessness like a badge of honor. I don’t really mind the first type. In fact, I love being able to share things that God has taught me about joy and passion and purpose in the hope that God will use that ministry to awaken something in my stuggling brothers and sisters. But that second type of joylessless I have very little patience for. And at least part of my lack of patience with those who seem to think that following Jesus – at least in this life – is supposed to be a somber, bleak affair comes from Jesus’ description of his own ministry:
A We played the flute for you and you did not dance
B We sang a dirge for you and you did not mourn
B’ John came neither eating nor drinking and they say “He has a demon.”
A’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking and they say, “Here is a glutton and a drunkard…”
Here, in Luke 7:32-34, Jesus contrasts his own ministry with John the Baptist’s by the use of a chiasm (where the first half of the passage corresponds in reverse order to the second). Joh played a dirge by not eating or drinking (i.e. he didn’t celebrate) but Jesus came playing a flute and inviting people to dance by eating and drinking (i.e. he celebrated). Of course, Jesus spoke this to a hostile audience who rejected both John and Jesus, but the way Jesus characterized his own ministry is fascinating, isn’t it? Jesus came playing a flute, eating and drinking…in other words, Jesus’ ministry is a celebration of God’s involvement in our world.
How can we possibly respond to that kind of ministry with anything less than authentic joy?