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Joy’s Paradox

I Peter 1:3-9 (6a) Rejoice in this

Helen Logosy placed an ad in the Suterlin, Oregon, Umpqua Shopper.  She had a bed, complete with cover, to sell.  She was overwhelmed with calls.  The ad read: “Like new, roll-a-way bed w/lover, $50.”

How you advertise often has everything to do with whether you sell the product or not.  Knowing that, in our eagerness to “sell the product” of the gospel, we emphasize the things that “sell” and end up distorting, diluting, misrepresenting the product.  No way is that more true than when we talk about joy.

To live as Christians in the world creates some strange paradoxes—two things that seem to be mutually exclusive are true:
–IN the world but not of it (apart from but not aloof)
–Loving the world but loyal to Christ.
An ancient description said of Christians, “They take their share of all responsibilities as citizens, and endure all disabilities as aliens.  Every foreign land is their native land, and every native land a foreign land….They pass their days upon earth, but their citizen ship is in heaven.”

It is often at these paradoxes, where we have trouble.  We have one of these in this text.  One of the characteristics of these “strangers” in the world, the New Testament clearly affirms, is joy—a great selling point.  However, when it becomes a selling point, we easily slip into a distortion of the reality of the Biblical idea.  It then becomes, “all will go well, and you will never have any problems.”

The Christian idea is something quite different as illustrated by the sample verses:

v.6, “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.” (NIV)
I Corinthians. 6:10- “always sorrowing, yet still rejoicing.”  Another translation says, “be glad when you are sad.” (TEV)

In other words, joy and grief (suffering/sadness, etc.) co-exist.  Neither one “obliterates the other” (Alexander McClaren).

The notion that Christian joy, gladness means a life of ease, comfort, drifting with current is flatly contradicted by the New Testament in general and this text in particular.  To think that to be happy is to remove all pain, all stress from my life is  a deception of hell and if pursued will create a place in hell for us.

Many of our debates/differences, struggles with issues like suffering, discipline are because we try to remove the paradox, to not see or accept the co-existence.

One point often missed in any discussion of joy is the Biblical principle that joy is not only a gift but also a duty. (another paradox).  Most English translations of verse 6 don’t reflect that this is an imperative tense and literally could be translated “rejoice in this.”  Or, as the Good News translates it, “be glad.”  It is a choice.

But it might be objected we are often victims of circumstances, events, things that we don’t control.  That is true but we can choose what we think about most, what we focus on.  “Rejoice in this” we are told.  WHAT?

born anew to a living hope
an inheritance

            Joy is “in our control.”  Think about Jesus and what He has done for us.  Where your attention is concentrated determines either your joy or discouragement.

Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9 for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (vv 8-9)

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