Monday, February 1, 2016

Untethered Joy

This post originally appeared in the February 2016 issue of the North Park church of Christ newsletter, The Encourager.

Over the years, it seems as though more and more the world tells us that all happiness and all joy is and must be tethered to the things in this world. Watch nearly any show or movie, read nearly any book, and you will see this played out. We see it in culture, politics, entertainment, discussion, everything. It is one of the driving factors in how people relate to everyday life.

It is the basis for much of the Social Justice Warrior’s dogma. If something out in the world offends me or makes me upset, it robs me of my joy and happiness and therefore cannot be allowed at any cost. It is the basis for much of Socialism. If everyone cannot have the same result, that robs me of my joy and happiness and so everyone must be made the same at any cost. It is even the basis for much of the Christian backlash against the direction the country is headed. If the government says I cannot practice my faith the way I see fit without penalty, that robs me of my joy and happiness and must be brought into line at any cost.

Brothers and sisters, we cannot and we should not base our joy in things of this world. When we do, it is a very small step to start treating things in this world as though they have power over who we are and what we do as people. It gives the enemy a foothold in our lives and places us in territory filled with traps for us to fall into.

Advertisements, politicians and trend-setters use this to an astonishing degree. Advertisements attack with “you need this to be fulfilled!” They are banking on the idea that things in this world will bring us joy. It is why Apple can sell someone a slightly upgraded iPhone 6 months after the last one came out. It is why HGTV can convince newly married couples that a $30,000 kitchen is a necessity for a new home. It all banks on the idea that joy is found in the things of this world.

Politicians give calls to “take our country back,” and claim they will make stores say Merry Christmas again (without bothering to say anything about how to make a private entity say what the government tells them to). It all spins on the idea that it is this world that is important. It is about creating a sense of desire for things in this world so that power can be accrued to themselves.

Trend-setters do the same. It is the basis for those claiming that all sexuality must be viewed as equal and moral. It is the basis for those claiming guns should be allowed anywhere and everywhere no matter what. The underlying concept is that joy is found in this world, and no one should be able to do anything to disrupt it.

But that is not Christian joy. Christian joy is found in God the Father and what Jesus His Son has done for us through the cross. It is found in the fact that those in Christ will be with Him forever, and that everything in this world, though it may be painful or frightening, is ultimately temporary. It is our destination that is eternal, and nothing in this world can tear us away from it. Our joy is in knowing that, as Paul said, “neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” That is our joy.

So let us do our best to live like it.

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