The Joy of the Lord

For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I may win more. To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law though not being myself under the Law, so that I might win those who are under the Law; to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, so that I might win those who are without law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some. I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it (1 Corinthians 9:19-23).

Recently I heard an interview with a reporter who for years went worldwide reporting. His task: find the unhappiest people in the unhappiest places and tell their stories.

Then he decided for a year to find places with reputations as the world’s happiest places. His objective: to discover (a) if there were happy places, and (b) what made them happy places. His discovery: (a) The world’s happiest places were climatically located in the harshest places. (b) They were happy places because people depended on each other. The people cared about each other.

You and I live in a troubled society and a troubled world. Many people do not know God, reject God, have mistaken ideas about God, or do not believe Jesus is the Christ, the son of the living God. Many have never known love, never been loved, or never knew a loving environment. A lot of people have never been forgiven or do not know what forgiveness is. Many do not interact or behave as we do, or have our social concepts.

God has a message for these people. He says He cares, and He showed the depth of His concern in Jesus’ ministry, death, and resurrection. The issue is not “does God care,” but “do we as God’s people care.” When such people have contact with us as a congregation or as individuals, do they experience caring, do they feel concern? Do they want to be a part of us because we care?

Easy? No! Tiring? Yes! Why? There is so much demand, and so few resources. There is so much need, and so few to be concerned. There are so many forms of consequences to bad behavior and poor choices, and almost no “fixes.”

For years we could focus on doctrines, but no more. For years we made every question a matter of “simple right or wrong,” but no more. For years we pulled some favorite verses out of context and clubbed people with them, but no more. Why? People who need God the most care not about our view of doctrines, right or wrong, or verses (in context) until first they see we care about them, until first they see God’s joy in us.

When I was a boy there were housewarmings, unplanned pooling of Sunday lunches by several families, games in homes, and various forms of interaction that demonstrated caring. I have heard you speak of campouts, trips together, and lots of social interaction. The joy of being together was obvious, inclusive, and real.

This is not a call to return to the past. It is a call to make our caring obvious, inclusive, and real.


David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Bulletin Article, 08 May 2008

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