The Problem of Perpetual Perkiness


Be joyful always. (1 Thessalonians 5:16)

You’ve got to be kidding me. I can understand spasms of giddiness. I can understand sessions of hilarity. I can even understand whole seasons of mirth. But chronic elation? Always? Paul must have sampled the magic mushrooms again. This guy’s floating in ecstasy, and I don’t mean the legal kind.

I’m not against joy. Some of my happiest moments had joy in them. I do have issues with that small subset of imbalanced Christianity who have lost touch with the gloom, despair, and agony that are a part of the healthy religious experience. Jesus was very careful not to let joy get the best of him. In fact, only once in the Gospels is Jesus reported to have been inflicted with it. Most of the time he was too busy being despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief like a respectable savior is supposed to be. Nobody would take a jolly Jesus seriously.

Paul does talk a lot about joy in his letters, but you have to remember that this is the same dude who took a “trip” to the third heaven. He was once “stoned” so bad he was left for dead. The guy also spent some major time floating in the open ocean. We are not talking normal here. So when Paul writes about joy he’s tapping into some strange mojo. But that’s why he made apostle in the first place. God has a definite thing for flakes.

Taking this into account, it’s probably better to reserve the joy thing for well-defined occasions like weddings, tax refunds, or bedtime. Sustained joyfulness will only make you irritating to the rest of us. Go ahead and be joyful if you can’t avoid it, but even then keep it to a minimum and, for God’s sake, keep it muzzled. Why bring the Good News into disrepute by irrational behavior?


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