Read Galatians 5:22-26
ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“There I will go to the altar of God, to God—the source of all my joy. I will praise You with my harp, O God, my God!” (Psalms 43:4 NLT)
In his letter to the church in Galatia, the Apostle Paul is writing to a community that is divided over the issue of male circumcision: should new Gentile followers of Jesus be counted as a part of the Jewish covenant without being circumcised, or should they have to be circumcised just as all of the Jews are circumcised. Being that Christianity at the time wasn’t a religion, but a sect of Judaism, this was a VITALLY IMPORTANT question. While Paul is opposed to making Gentiles be circumcised, he also is against divisive behavior regardless of which side it is coming from. In response to this division, Paul describes to the Galatian church what he calls, “The Fruit of the Spirit.”
FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT: Joy. We all want to be happy, right? I cannot think of a single person who would claim that they don’t desire happiness. We all have different ideas of happiness. I have the idea of a world where people lived together in harmony, where no one through judgment around and thought they were better than anyone else. I have the idea of such a world where no one thought that they were right and everyone else was wrong, where religion was taken seriously, where all religions were respected, and where religious fanatics didn’t ostracize, imprison or kill others. I have the same idea of a world where politicians follow suit and don’t try and ostracize, imprison or kill others for their own political gains. I could go on with this ideal world and I am certain that such a world would make me truly happy.
Since that reality is surely never coming, or at least not anytime soon, perhaps I will just settle for a permanent vacation (great Aerosmith album, btw) on an island somewhere in the Caribbean where I am slurping piña coladas in young coconut shells all day long, while sitting on a beach listening to “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.” Sounds great right?!?! Our world loves happiness, it longs for it, it tells us all that we should be pursuing it to the ends of the earth. The problem, as many of us in life have already discovered, is that happiness is fleeting at best and the pursuit of it often leads us toward a giant cliff that over looks an endless abyss of disappointment and despair.
That is absolutely why you will not find happiness being called a Fruit of the Spirit. It just simply is not. I am sure that Paul was NOT happy getting rejected by the church in Jerusalem for wanting to be open-minded and open hearted to the Gentiles. I am sure that he wasn’t happy getting stoned (by rocks…to clarify) and imprisoned. I am sure that he wasn’t happy having his authority and his apostleship questioned, being considered an outsider by both his fellow Jews and his fellow Apostles. I am sure that Paul did not live a life of happiness, and I am equally sure he didn’t spend is life pursuing it. Rather, Paul’s life was one of joy, not happiness!
Joy, in essence is that inner thankfulness that causes one to experience bliss, peace and contentment in all circumstances. It is the calm assurance that God is with you in those circumstances and, even if your life is forfeit as a result of living out your faith, you are thankful for all that God has given to you and for all that God has called you to. One can try to pursue it; however, it is not bought, or earned, or easily attained; rather it is produced by the Holy Spirit, by the divine presence of God dwelling within us. It is in the context of a relationship with God and the transformative reception of the Holy Spirit that one begins to have a joy that cannot be contained or snuffed out. Do you want to experience it? Open your heart to God and allow the Holy Spirit to enter you and transform you into God’s agent of hope, healing, and wholeness.
THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Joy is prayer; joy is strength: joy is love; joy is a net of love by which you can catch souls.” – Mother Teresa
Lord, turn my heart into an eternal well-spring of your joy! Amen.