Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Sources of Joy

Why were first century Christians so joyful? The New Testament-- especially the Book of Acts and Paul's letters-- clearly portrays these first Christians as filled with both joy and mutual love. Paul gives this advice to the Philippians, "Rejoice in the Lord always, again I will say, Rejoice!"

Huston Smith, author of the bestselling The World's Religions, believes that these early Christians were joyful because three crushing burdens had been lifted from them: (1) fear and especially the fear of death, (2) guilt, and (3) ego. The burden of fear was lifted by the conviction that God was with them in life and death. The burden of guilt was lifted by God's forgiveness. The burden of ego was lifted by the spiritual path of selfless love as exemplified in the life and death of Jesus.

We can be weighed down by these same burdens as well as others. When a burden is lifted, there is lightness and freedom; there is relief and joy. The lifting of a burden is like this: being underwater while holding a weight and then letting go and rising to the surface. Above the surface of the water is air, light and life.

These early Christians can serve as signposts pointing us on the path to joy. The questions we need to ask ourselves are: What burdens are weighing me down? What would my life be like if this burden was lifted? How can these burdens be lifted so I can be free?

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