9 “As the Father loved me, I too have loved you. Remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. 11 I have said these things to you so that my joy will be in you and your joy will be complete. 12 This is my commandment: love each other just as I have loved you. 13 No one has greater love than to give up one’s life for one’s friends.
Scholar William Barclay wrote, “We are chosen for joy. However hard the Christian way is, it is, both in the travelling and in the goal, the way of joy. There is always a joy in doing the right thing….A gloomy Christian is a contradiction in terms, and nothing in all religious history has done Christianity more harm than its connection with black clothes and long faces.”* On the night before he died on a Roman cross, Jesus reminded his followers that living out his agape love is the ultimate path to joy.
Lord Jesus, you know how much I like pleasing myself. Keep teaching me how life’s deepest joy comes in living out your self-giving model to bless the other people I love. Amen.
* William Barclay, Daily Study Bible Series: The Gospel of John—Volume 2 Chapters 8–21 (Revised Edition). Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1975, p. 177.
As we consider the idea that the Christian journey is supposed to be joyful, I thought we’d “visit” with Mr. Mel N. Caulley Founder/C.E.O. of N.A.B.O.B. – The National Association of the Bitter or Bothered.
DL: Mr. Caulley, thanks for visiting with us. How did you arrive at your organization’s name?
Mel N. Caulley: Our name is inspired by then Vice-President Spiro Agnew’s 1970 rant at the news media calling them, “Nattering Nabobs of Negativism.” 1 I’ve always had a rather cynical view of life. Even as a kid, my body rejected a blood transfusion because it was the wrong blood type: B-Positive. I was drawn to my hobby, photography, because I was dealing with negatives all the time. Hang on, let me refill my coffee cup – it is half empty.
So, I started our organization to emphasize cynical takes, help develop outrageous analogies/metaphors, & write hyperbolic headlines. Thanks to our efforts, a huge percentage of news stories now have a negative slant.
Readers may say they hate negative news, but their behavior indicates they can’t get enough of that questionable gossip, hot take, or slanted headline. The more cynical/exaggerated the headline, the more clicks the story receives. We seem drawn to headlines that enrage us. It’s a can’t-miss business model.
DL: I realize our secular world is knee-deep in this obsession, but unfortunately it is also interfering with our walk with God. The Christian faithwalk is meant to be joyful. It should provide a counter-balance to the toils & troubles of the world. Scene after scene in the Bible, we see people joyful after their encounter with Jesus – not filled with despair.
Consider one of my favorite Biblical vignettes from Matthew 9:9-11. Matthew has just been converted. His 1st response is to invite all of his fellow sinners to a dinner party in his home with Jesus.
Mel N. Caulley: Ah yes. The Pharisees are outside the party grumbling about this radical Rabbi. If I were advising the Pharisees, I’d immediately set up a panel of “Religious Experts” to go on cable talk shows to unanimously condemn Jesus for dining with sinners, you know, to intimidate any other Rabbis from considering Jesus’ ministry. I’d take pictures of the Disciples leaving the party, & demand no one buy their fish or do business with them. I’d contact all the synagogues & threaten them with expulsion if they allowed Jesus to speak from their pulpit. We’d quickly brand Jesus & His followers as the “Descendants of Baal” & plant articles with headlines like, “Is Jesus the new Jezebel?”
DL: Sadly, that probably is a common game-plan. However, what would be your take on what went on at the dinner party? Would Jesus be stand-offish at the head of the table delivering a stern lecture condemning the subdued guests for their life choices?
Mel N. Caulley: Well, no. That doesn’t sound like Him. How do you see this scene?
DL: I think the dinner party would be loud affair with lots of smiling & laughter. I imagine Jesus would be working the room to visit with each guest. In the midst of the joyful setting, there would be many poignant moments. The prostitute at the table would be amazed at Jesus’ look of love, not lust, as she shared her story of hardship & extreme poverty. His offering of grace & mercy & encouragement to change her ways would bring her to tears. The tax collector would mournfully share how much he missed God. Since his vocation precluded him from visiting the Temple, he has felt estranged & lonely. Jesus’ reassurance that God has always loved him, would once again make the tax collector feel valued & worthy. At some point in the evening, maybe Jesus would pat Matthew on the back, indicating that this is exactly the kind of dinner party He likes. The shindig probably went on into the wee hours of the morning – no one wanted to break away from this time of bliss.
Mel N. Caulley: Wow. What a contrast. The bitter & bleak environment outside the home compared with the warm compassionate atmosphere around the dinner table. That sounds amazing, but how can we replicate that environment today?
DL: Maybe take a Sabbath from our media feeds for a day. Read our Scripture or focus on an inspirational hymn in the morning & mull it over throughout the day. View our weekly time of worship, not as a “to do” item, but rather as a mini-vacation as we immerse ourselves in themes of grace, hope, & joy. Finally, perhaps we could pray that God fortify ourselves each day to deliberately choose to seek out moments of Godly love & fellowship.
Mel N. Caulley: You know, that might work. Whoa. I’ve gotta run. I’ve got tickets to a “Hee Haw” revival show in Branson.
DL: That sounds fun. I love their opening song, “I’m a Pickin’ & I’m a Grinnin’.”
Mel N. Caulley: Actually, my favorite song is “Gloom, Despair & Agony on Me.”
DL: I must say, you are consistent. Thanks for your time.
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