Thursday, April 21, 2011

Must Christians Always Experience Joy? Part Two

One way to help in thinking about the Bible's commands to rejoice are the differences between the seasons of rejoicing and weeping we experience as individuals, and the Church's rejoicing.

In 1 Thessalonians 5:16, Philippians 3:1 and Philippians 4:4, Paul exhorts the church to rejoice. The command is plural; it is the duty of the whole body of Christ to always rejoice in the Lord. The basis for this corporate rejoicing of course, just as for individuals in the church, is the grace and hope brought to us through the gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The Church, as the body of Christ, is meant to keep these truths always central and prominent to guide her pilgrim journey on the earth.

But as individual members of Christ's body and of one another ( Romans 12:5, 1 Corinthians 12:27), the Bible recognizes we will not always be rejoicing (Romans 12:15). Sometimes as individual members we'll bear a heavy load (Galatians 6:2). Sometimes as individual members we'll suffer and feel no cheer (James 5:13).

Notice that the response to those who weep and have no cheer is not a pep talk, necessarily, but to be with them in their distress. Those who suffer remain joined to the Church's continued rejoicing in the hope of the glory of God (Romans 5:2), yet the Bible tells those who are able to to turn and weep right along with those who weep, even as with the whole body they continue on, rejoicing in hope.

It's an antimony, to be sure, how a real acknowledgment of the suffering and cheerlessness of individuals goes right along with rejoicing in hope. We don't always see the Church acting in her assigned role of rejoicing in hope even as she's turning to weep with those who weep. Our wrong understanding of what biblical rejoicing is based on keeps us from being able to do this well, perhaps. The point of my post from yesterday (that I maybe didn't make so well) is that the Scriptures make room for individual members of Christ's body to have seasons of difficulty in which they may not experience feelings of joy; and that the biblical response of the always-rejoicing-in-hope Church is to weep right along with them.

If the body of Christ, filled with the Spirit and with the words of Christ (Ephesians 5:18 and Colossians 3:16), continues faithfully in rejoicing in hope and in weeping with those who weep, then sufferers will be helped and encouraged to rejoice in hope as well.

1 comment:

jan spooner said...

I really liked your post today, sister.