My evangelist friend Thomas gave me a surprising bit of advice for sharing my faith with non-Christians. “For goodness’ sake, enjoy your faith!” he bellowed in his distinctive Malaysian accent. “Christians get so tense and serious. They forget to show their friends and family that the Christian life is filled with joy.”
Religion is a contentious topic these days and the conversations surrounding it are often downright nasty. It’s easy to get stuck in a defensive crouch and lose our joy when we tackle the topic. But how can we expect people to want something we don’t even appear to enjoy? Yes, go ahead and explain why the Bible is historically reliable. Write that post arguing for the existence of God. But make sure your friends know that this is more than an academic topic to you. It’s something that imbues your life with meaning and gives you joy.
An invitation to joy
In 2013, Pope Francis wrote a passionate letter to the Catholic Church called The Joy of the Gospel. Reading his words, one might say that, like Drew Dyck’s friend, Thomas, the Pope has an earnest desire for all believers to see it is the amazing delight of meeting and being loved and saved by Jesus Christ that has the power to revolutionize our lives, take over our whole hearts, and turn us into more effective missionary disciples of the Lord:
The joy of the gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus. Those who accept his offer of salvation are set free from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness and loneliness. With Christ, joy is constantly born anew. In this Exhortation, I wish to encourage the Christian faithful to embark upon a new chapter of evangelization marked by this joy, while pointing out new paths for the Church’s journey in years to come. ~ Pope Francis, The Joy of the Gospel
Just stop for a moment and let the reality of what the Pope wrote–what you perhaps “know” but take for granted–wash over you again: In Christ, we are set free from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness and loneliness! Does a deep knowledge and peace about this reality mark your life daily with joy and bear a joyful witness to the world of God’s most amazing gift?
Is your witness marked by joy?
One of Saturday Night Live’s most remembered and beloved characters was The Church Lady. Created and played by Dana Carvey during the late 1980s, The Church Lady, Enid Strict, was marked by her smugness and uptightness as she hosted her own talk show, Church Chat. On her “show” she had multiple celebrity guests, played by other cast members of SNL or by the actual celebrities themselves. But those of us who recall these skits will remember that her celebrity interviews were only a guise for her to call her guests out on their various sins and missteps. After some sarcastic praise from her, the interview eventually degraded into a tirade against her guest’s apparent lack of piety, culminating with her judgmental admonishments.
We remember The Church Lady for her superiority. We do not remember her for her joy.
Is what is true of her, also, unfortunately, true of too many of us?
Today, how can you begin to you let your life bear witness to the amazing reality of salvation because you are marked by joy?