Yesterday was the third Sunday of Advent. In many churches, the JOY candle was lit – joining Hope (week one) and Love (week two). In a short devotional after our church’s children gave a delightful musical performance (starring, among others, my two grandsons, DeeJay and Aiden – I am so humble to confess this!), Pastor Rob shared a simple but profound formula for true Joy.
J = Jesus
O = Others
Y = Yourself
All three components are necessary for true Joy. People in the world try to find joy in themselves or in others. But I think we would all agree that without Jesus there is no joy. His coming defines Joy to the World.
However, there are some who consider themselves Christians who try to find joy in themselves and Jesus, but without others. Alarming numbers of people who profess Christian faith, do so outside the context of “community.” They have personal devotion to the Lord but no connection to the Church.
Their reasons for not being involved in a church sound legitimate. They have been hurt by others. Leaders have left them disillusioned. Others have felt “used” by the church; having volunteered many hours and given thousands of dollars.
Granted, “others” are hard to live with. They will hurt you. They will use you. They will disappoint you. Jesus must have felt the same way. When He came to our world, He was constantly attacked, betrayed (and not just once by Judas), disappointed, and disregarded.
But He did not give up on “others.” In fact, He loved them. He gave His life on the Cross for them. He sent His Holy Spirit to them. And He longs to come and gather them together in a loving, forever community.
And, by the way, those “others” include people like you and me. (Sometimes we don’t realize that we are also difficult to live with, that we’ve betrayed and disillusioned people, too)
Why did Jesus do this for others? Hebrews 12:2 gives us a little hint: “For the JOY set before him, he endured the cross, scorning its shame.” Jesus endured the cross because He saw you and me and others being saved through it. And that gave Him joy. Some scholars believe that the “joy” Jesus saw set before Him was us. We are His joy. The “others.”
There are “others” that have burned me, treated me unfairly, and made me feel overall uncomfortable. And I thank God for them. God used them to transform my life profoundly. God used them to teach me things about myself that I would have never learned from the “nice” people. God used them to teach me the unconditional part of “unconditional love.”
I am learning to love those “others,” and it does bring me great joy. And, you know what, as I have learned to love those others, they are changing, too. They are becoming more loving, more Christ like, and more joy-full.
Jesus. Others. Yourself. All of them are necessary ingredients for the God-induced ecstasy that we call JOY.