I have a lot to tell you. I don’t want to use paper and ink, but I hope to visit you and talk with you face-to-face, so that our joy can be complete.
2 John 1:12 (CEB)
Many of whom I consider to be my closest friends live very far from me. I live in Michigan and they all live in Texas. As such, these days most of our keeping up with each other is done online over Facebook or Skype. Occasionally, we might even call one another! While these alternative modes of communication have been a great blessing to me, there is still nothing quite like meeting up in person. Every couple of years, my friends and I will decide upon a destination halfway between us and travel there together for a reunion trip. Over the course of the weekend together, we will laugh and smile as we reminisce, sharing stories and making new ones. All of this is done with great joy.
In John the Evangelist’s very short letter that we know as Second John, we see something very similar to what I just described. Whomever the woman is that he is writing to, John has a very close relationship to her and cannot wait to see her in person once more. There is much more to tell her beyond that thirteen verses of this letter contain, but pen and paper just isn’t enough. He wants to see her face to face. In doing so, their “joy can be complete.” Any reader can see that this letter reflects great joy in its words, but it is nowhere near the levels of joy seen in the immediate personal interaction between these two people.
Why is that? Much has been written and discussed about joy, especially in its relation to happiness. What’s the difference between the two? Without going into great detail, I offer a simple supposition: joy does not come from within. Joy comes from other people. I can make myself happy in many different ways, from eating a cookie to watching a favorite movie. However, I cannot give myself joy. Joy is a gift from God that His Spirit bestows upon us in the company of our fellow people.
Joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. I will confess that I have most often thought of this spiritual attribute in the context of receiving it. However, I believe that the Holy Spirit is also made manifest in the giving of joy as well. I know many people in my life who are very good at this and the simple act of seeing them walk into the room with a smile on their face brings joy to everyone in the room. Perhaps, though, it is the work of these two in tandem—both the receiving and giving of joy—that are at the heart of what the Spirit provides for us.
Is it any wonder that God calls his people to assemble? I experience great joy on a Sunday morning. It isn’t from the songs we sing (though I often do love them.) It’s not from the sermon, though I do enjoy both listening to our pulpit minister as well as preaching myself. Joy is in the interactions with my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Joy is in the breaking bread together. Joy is not in the words or music of a song, but in the united voices joining together. Joy is in the little children being cared for by the elderly widows sitting next to them in the pew. Joy is in the love of God that is present when His people are together face to face.
Wherever you are, whomever you are with, you have an opportunity to be a beacon of joy to another person. May God’s Spirit be at work in you to bless others with your presence.
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We pray to you, our Fount of Joy. We thank you for every cherished moment we have with one another, knowing that you are present there, too. Help us to be joyful and to spread Your joy to those around us in our words and in our actions. Amen.
Mike Miles is the student and family minister at the Livonia Church of Christ in the western suburbs of Detroit, Michigan. He attended Abilene Christian University, where he obtained his Bachelor of Arts in Christian Ministry in 2009. Mike is currently working on his Master of Religious Education in Missional Leadership at Rochester College in Rochester, Michigan.
Mike has a love for community and for bringing people together, especially across society's dividing lines. Born in the Philippines, he has since lived in over twenty different places but happily calls Michigan "home." He is unashamedly nerdy. He has tried to maintain a blog for years, but has decided that he is just too lazy. He is married to Blythe and has a son, with a baby girl on her way in early 2017!