This past Sunday, I was visiting a church and the guest speaker was sharing something that God had impressed on his heart recently: The mark of Christianity is the permeating joy of Christ.
As he affirmed over and over, there was nothing surprising or new to his message. However, it was still a message worth sharing and worth pondering. How can my show, even when I’m not talking about it? His assertion was that it’s deep-seated, situation-independent joy. People should be able to look at us and recognize an inexplicable joy.
This reminded me of an experience I had a couple months ago. My small group was meeting at a local burger joint, and we were taking time sharing what God had been teaching us recently.
As we all took turns sharing what was going on in our lives, the waiter came out to check on us, and he made a quip about how somber we all seemed. We all laughed at that, but it was really eye-opening to get a glimpse of how we appeared to people who weren’t in our group.
Now, we were having a really good conversation. All 8 or 9 of us were completely engaged. And we looked somber to the waiter. I don’t think that what we were doing was wrong in any way, and I probably wouldn’t have thought about this again. But if the implicit tell of our faith is joy, where does that leave serious conversations?
Should we forgo these discussions? I hope not. I love learning from other Christians and hearing how God is speaking to them. Perhaps we should limit them to more private locations. Maybe. But some of the most meaningful conversations I’ve had have been impromptu, serious, and often very public.
Ultimately, I don’t think I’m going to be seeking change in these conversations. I think there was joy displayed in our conversation. But the waiter came at one particular moment, when one person was talking, sharing something personal and meaningful. That’s not a time for laughter. Sure, we all laughed when the waiter cracked his joke, but we quickly returned to our serious demeanor once he left.
How does a permeating joy display itself in this situation?
Honestly, I’m not entirely sure. But perhaps it’s in the fact that there was a group of 20-somethings meeting for two hours of burgers and conversation on a weeknight, when most of us had to be up early for work, school, or some other engagement. Maybe our joy is displayed in that we simply love being together.