True Love Is Pure Joy
I've met some pretty sour Christians in my life---people who claim to love Jesus and to have the "joy, joy, joy, joy down in their heart," but who suck the joy out of their own life, and everything else's as well.
You know the type, the ones who look like they have lost all ability to smile in any circumstance other than to gloat over the demise of their enemies.
The ones who post all kinds of awful, hateful stuff on their social media pages along with a few Bible verse memes super-imposed over photos of mountains or sunsets or a daisy poking its way through a crack in the sidewalk.
If this sounds to you like it's being drawn from specific instances from my own memories---you'd be right.
But what I have to admit here is that I am also frequently one of those sour Christians. I'm ashamed to say it, but there it is. The truth of the matter is that all of us who claim to be Christian are pretty sour, too, from time to time.
It starts when we allow our joy to be stolen, and then again, and again. Our joy can be stolen because of our circumstances, the insensitivity of others, or our own personal pain, but once it starts... it's hard to get it to stop.
And then we soon find ourselves joyless in our journey with Jesus and losing our ability to feel and show love as a result of it.
Because that's where it begins and ends---with love. It's love that rescued us, drew us out of our old ways of being and doing, and into new life. It's love that finds us when we feel we are lost and beyond finding.
It's love that can change the world, and more importantly our own hearts. It's love that precedes every moment of resurrection because only true love has the power to take what was lifeless and give raise it from the dead.
The late Thich Naht Hanh once wrote:
The kind of love that has no joy is not true love.
I'm doing my very best to live into this simple and convicting phrase. I know I've got a lot to learn as I move forward in my journey, and I hope that I will become the kind of Christ-follower, who fully understands that true love is filled with joy.
I can go about proclaiming my love for Jesus all I want, but if there is no joy in it, then I need to rethink my end of the relationship.
Because the love of God in Christ never runs out and never fails. God's love is the one constant we can stand upon in a shifting, swirling world of inconstancy. This love is forever and always, and that in and of itself should bring joy to my heart.
This is why I need to learn more completely what it means to cast all of my cares upon God and to trust that all the things that are beyond my control, are well within the grasp of God's loving hands.
I don't have to be afraid to love. In fact, as the author of The First Epistle of John taught, "There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear..."
May you and I be caught up in the perfect love of Christ---unafraid of what our next steps might bring. May we find the joy that comes from knowing we are held firmly in God's loving hands no matter what.
And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.