I have told you these things so that my joy may be in you, and your joy may be complete. My commandment is this—to love one another just as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this—that one lays down his life for his friends.
–John 15:11-13 NET
I doubt he knew what he was saying, but this was a clear moment of, “out of the mouth of babes….” Years ago our son made a rather remarkable comment while he and I were talking about superheroes. At one point in the conversation (I think he was 6) he said, “I don’t want to be like Superman, I want Superman inside me.” Seriously!? Who talks like that? I can only imagine that in his 6-year old mind it was quite clear that he lacked the power to be like Superman, so it was better to have Superman inside him. How else was he going to jump tall buildings?
Frankly, this kind of describes the tension I feel when it comes to joy. I hear a lot about “being like Jesus” but when it comes right down to it, I can’t really be like Him. When faced with conflict, struggle, confusion, and the like, joy does not come naturally to me. I tend to take protective measures and hope for the best, and then get angry if something gets in the way of “my joy and happiness.”
But what if joy actually already took up residence in me through Christ? That’s a game-changer, in my mind. Isn’t that what Jesus is talking about in John 15? He’s telling his disciples, “Abide in me. I’ll abide in you. In the same way the Father has loved me, I love you. If you live in my ways you will be connected in my love just as I live in my Father’s ways and remain in His love. And the whole reason I’m telling you this is because I want my joy to reside in you—to the full!” (my paraphrase)
Jesus is letting us know that His joy (which is now our joy) is directly linked to love—the kind of love that is bound up in our Triune God. This kind of love is outward-facing, life-giving, others-centered. It seeks the highest good of another at any cost to self.
Again, I don’t know about you, to be nestled in that kind of love, joy is an obvious by-product. To be loved and enjoyed as deeply as the Father loved and enjoyed Jesus (and we are—“just as the Father loved me I love you…” (John 15:9)) not only produces but reveals the depths of joy that can only represent something deeply implanted within us—Christ in us!
ACTION: When have you experienced the kind of love that dispels shame and guilt in such a way that the resulting emotion can only be described as “joy”? Do you find yourself relaxing or tensing a bit when thinking about being settled in Jesus’ love? Rather than trying to produce joy, what do you think it might look like on you to discover joy already implanted in you? In what kind of situations do you wish (desire) to see that kind of joy?