Joyful Christians. Mmm. Forgive my British cynicism, but, really, do we have to be so eager?
Don’t get me wrong. I love Jesus. But isn’t the ‘joy’ part of being a Christian just for those missionary, keen-types? Or just for the times when I’ve heard a really belting sermon? Or just for Christians who don’t live in London?
The problem is that when I’m confronted with the wonder and riches of the gospel that I believe, I’m grieved by my lacklustre joy. Why am I not more joyful at the news of Jesus, our Saviour?
Peel back that cynical outer layer, and the truth is that I want to be a more joyful Christian. I can sense that it’s the right response to the gospel. But I also recognise that it’s not something that you can force or whip up out of nowhere.
What does Jesus think that gospel joy looks like? He tells a mini-parable, found in Matthew 13, that gives us a surprising answer:
The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field (Matthew 13:44).
Imagine all your possessions. The big things (the house, the car) and the small (your coffee mug and soap dish). Imagine selling them all. Every single last thing. Does this strike you as an endeavour that would bring you great joy? Selling everything is normally associated with times of distress – when there’s debt or bankruptcy. But the man in the parable does it with great joy. And he does it to buy a field.
Imagine the conversation he had with his wife when he got home. “Love, I’ve sold the house, I’ve sold everything. I’d say ‘pack your bags’ but I’ve sold those too. I’m buying a field.” Imagine what his friends were saying. “Dude, it’s just a field – have you lost your mind?”
To the world (and his wife) he would have looked like a fool. But he knew the value of the thing he’d found. He knew he was making a good – in fact, brilliant – trade. He knows that in that field is hidden treasure. So he gives up all his possessions with great joy.
Joy is the right response to the gospel because of the value of the gospel. It is treasure, sweeter than honey and more precious than gold. It is riches, and inheritance, and eternity, and salvation and peace. Its not just for the super-Christian; its for all Christians. Where’s my joy? Right in front of me, if I would only look at the gospel more deeply, and realise that it is more precious than all the things I can lay my hands on.