Monday, 16 August 2010

Happiness and Joy Now And In the Future

I recently asked a group of Yr 7s to write a short essay on what makes them happy. I then asked them to read the Matthean or Lucan Beatitudes (including woes). It stirs some questions to say the least, especially when some of Luke's woes end up on their happiness list! The gospel runs counter to the tendency to collapse happiness and joy down to a passing feeling or activities that are a little on the superficial side, and usually individualistic in tone. Jesus reminds us that there are things that are more important than the usual shopping list of 'happiness products'.

Moreover,  Jesus links happiness to a future fulfillment. "Happy are ... those who mourn, for they shall be comforted." (Matt 5:4) Hebrews picks this up in writing about Jesus as the pioneer of our faith: "...  who for the sake of the joy set before him endured the cross ..." (Hebrews 12:2). The little Greek word anti, translated above as  "for the sake of" can also mean "instead of". Both possibilities pick up the relative importance of present joys. "For the sake of" reminds us to look ahead to a greater joy for us all (Hebrews 11:39-40). The latter possible translation reminds us that there are times when the joys of life may need to be eschewed for obedience to God's call. No wonder it comes as the climax to the great honour roll of people of faith!

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