Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Joy Is Strength

"Do not be saddened this day, for rejoicing in the Lord must be your strength." -[Nehemiah 8: 8-10].

It is very difficult today to admit that one is a Christian. I am not talking about the prospect of violent persecution. That kind of severe backlash is all too common in our world, as it is.

What I am talking about is the constant commentary about Christians, even in the supposedly enlightened developed Western world.

I am hearing of a new movement among Christians, which is essentially a vow to live under the radar as a Christian; because it is all too difficult to explain that, being Christian does not mean that one is ignorant, uneducated, backwards, or superstitious.

Misperceptions about Christians die hard. In the early days of the church, some observers believed that Christians were so "unnaturally" joyful, that they must be either drunk, or insane.

In today's world, Joy is in short supply. To be joyful is to be labeled foolish or seriously in denial.

HOW can one ever be joyful- (Pick one)- 1) With this American President?; 2) With global climate change?; 3) With pervasive racism and patriarchy?; 4) With nuclear weapons in the hands of madmen?; 5) With gender inequality and even sexual assault?; 6) With layers of poverty and despair in our society? - Oh, I could go on and on.

The inventors of social media, such as Mark Zuckerberg, sincerely believe that outlets such as Facebook open the world to a global discussion, and have the capacity to "change the world."  But in many ways, social media has promoted the negative, the scurrilous and the downright dangerous.

Today, people who are joyful are viewed with suspicion. Joy has become synonymous with naivety.

Today, St. Paul's advice to the Colossians seems antiquated and ridiculously idealized: "Therefore, as the elect [representative] of God, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Bear with each other and forgive any complaint you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues, put on Love which is the bond of perfect unity."

Today, as Pope Francis has said, we have become the Gotcha Police. The news and social media are rife with calling out others' bad behavior.

In a recent column in the New York Times, David Brooks commented: "Back in the old days, morality was about loving and serving others. But now its about displaying indignation about things that other people are doing wrong."

We seek to gain daily points in gloating over the mistakes and sins of others. We believe that we are elevated, only to the extent of tearing others down, and in a very public way. Jesus was perhaps the greatest warrior against sin and corruption, but I have never read of one instance where he broadcast His finding of personal Sin across the land to humiliate another, or publicly gloated over it.

Jesus was compassionate, kind, loving, humble, gentle, forgiving, joyful and patient. And yet, He quite fiercely fought against injustice and corruption, with all He had. In fighting the corruption and sin of Rome, He gave His very Life. No one would call Jesus, with all of His compassion, humility, joy or kindness - weak. No one would call Him deranged. Or on the wrong side of the Fight.

Or naive. Jesus knew exactly what Sin was. He was resolute and powerful in the battle against Evil.

I truly pray that today's Christians are not afraid to shine their Light onto the world.  Matthew says, "Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick. Let your light shine so before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father . . in Heaven."

Many cannot understand why or how Christians can be so joyful? Or they cannot understand why this joy is not misplaced, or a sign of weakness. The answer lies in our Faith.

For God always has the last word. We say to God: "Yet, You hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel. My body and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart." -[Psalm 73: 23-26].

We pray, as St. Paul did, "I have fought the good fight. I have kept the Faith. I have completed the race."

[Related Postings: "Rejoice!!, 12/18/17; "Comfort and Joy", 12/15/14; "Got Faith?", 11/28/12].

(c) Spiritual Devotional 2019. All Rights Reserved.

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