Wednesday, November 25, 2009

How happy should I be?

We've been pondering love at church recently, working through 1 Corinthians 13. I've been challenged, rebuked and a little encouraged. It's been good.

Thinking through love, I think it's significant that the Bible doesn't exactly give us a definition of what love is. I suspect love is just too multifaceted a thing to be neatly defined. Instead, it offers us a model of love: the love of God for humanity, shown in Christ. What God does in Jesus - that's love.

It seems to me that one facet of love that we can see in Christ could be summarised like this: love is opening yourself up to the other, to the extent that your happiness depends on their good. In other words, love means I can't be happy unless the other person is prospering. Love is not the opposite of self-interest, but is extending self-interest to embrace and include other people. I want to be happy - that's natural; I can't be happy unless others are doing well - that's love.

Manifestly, people are not doing well in our world. So, how happy should I be?

Jesus was a man of sorrows, acquainted with suffering. Wasn't that because he loved the world, and pegged his own happiness to the good of the world? Through free love, God freely admitted his creation into his concern, and freely determined not to be happy without his creation.

My question is: was Jesus a man of sorrows so that I don't have to be, or was he a man of sorrows to show me what I ought to be?


  1. This post reminded me of a friend who was (ruthlessly?) hedonistic to the extent that he would do things like refuse to watch comic relief. The pictures to do with the appeals would make him sad.

    Having said that, he was the most generous person I've met in some ways, who always made people around him happy (happy friends made him happy). His generosity just didn't extent to people who he wouldn't see happiness in.

    I'm not sure how to answer your question at the end, but wonder if Ecclesiastes might have something to do with it? It seems there that we're given license to be happy despite all that happens in the world (11v9). I'm tending to the former rather than the latter option. Thoughts?

  2. I'm starting to think it's a 'now and not yet' thing. I can be happy now, despite the mess, because it *will* be sorted out. (Just as God can say that his world is 'very good' in Genesis 2 even though Genesis 3 is about to happen... He knows the end result). But my happiness now will always need to be qualified by sadness for the present. I will be a conflicted person. Perhaps that's part of the groaning for the new creation?