Ok, so the last few posts have been a bit of a downer, but you’ll be glad to know that’s over for the rest of this series!
As is so often the case with discussions of depth about life we’ve spent a decent bit of focus on the darker tendencies, on the ways we don’t meet our ideals, on the ways we court the flesh and worship death. But life is a balance and I would be remiss not to point out the shocking beauty of humanity. This time of year we see Angel trees and charity matching. We see outreach and warmth and holiday cheer. Everywhere is Christmas music, lights, children laughing, and family get-togethers. The cynical can poke holes in it; decry the consumerism or condemn the religious exclusivity or scream about the family stress. The lost can find the pain in it; the shivering poor, the missed Loved ones, the depression of the orphaned and alone.
But these are all problems of perspective and, quite honestly, they require work to get yourself into. A coworker of mine has a sign hanging in her cube that says “2-step plan for happiness: 1. Say ‘beep-boop’ quietly to yourself. 2. Repeat until happy.” That may take a couple repetitions, but you know what doesn’t? Sing one freakin’ bar of Rudolph or Frosty. Man, not only does it make you smile and bubble up from inside, but anyone near you will either join in or laugh. Behavioral analysts will tell you that’s because when you were a kid you were culturally brainwashed to associate these things to pleasure. Hogwash. Winter has been a center of joy and celebration for as long as we’ve had records of people. It is a time of celebrating the passing of the old and the anticipation of the upcoming new. That didn’t spring (no pun intended) from nothing.
Happy, happy, happy
Yesterday I wrote about justice and our instinctual disdain for it. A few days before that I wrote about Babel and the roots of difference among us. It is in our differences that we thrive, yet we so badly want to flog ourselves for being unjust that we now drive each other away. The amount of energy we expend to get into a negative state of mind is just boggling. It is so much easier to be happy, to just decide “don’t sweat the small stuff, and it’s all small stuff.” As intimately familiar as I am with anger I recognize that it is not truly my default. My default — and yours and everyone else’s — is happiness, relaxation, peace.
You know this is true when you look at the face of a new dad holding his daughter or a small child inviting a new kid in the neighborhood to come play. The rush, the smile, the joy is natural, effortless, and overwhelming. When you’re mad you have to do things to stay mad. Whe you’re happy you have to work not to be. The joy is the natural state. Last time we talked about chairo, about exceedingly exhuberant joy. Today in 1 Corinthians 13:6 part 2 we are going to expand on it. Without ado…
God rejoices whenever the truth wins out
The New Living Translation reads “rejoices whenever the truth wins out” and while I like it, it’s imprecise. The King James reads “rejoiceth in the truth,” and that is closer. The Aramaic reads “rejoices in the truth” which of course is the same thing. But how about that Greek? Surely rejoiceth is our beloved chairo? Well, not exactly. The word is actually συγχαίρω, sygchairo, which means “with exceeding joy” where “with” is a positional statement, so the better translation is “celebrates alongside”.
The word “truth” is ἀλήθεια, aletheia, and the root of it is the negative of λανθάνω, lanthano, which is a verb that means “to be hidden or concealed.” So aletheia really means “the unhidden and unconcealable truth”. It isn’t talking about revealed truth, but about truth that cannot be hidden in the first place. This is why I think the NLT is imprecise: it implies rejoicing only when truth is revealed, but that comes with a counterpoint of not rejoicing when the truth is hidden, and that isn’t what Paul meant.
So the verse actually says “celebrates alongside the open and universal truth.” It isn’t the opposite of rejoicing in injustice, it is a higher level of playing field altogether. The open and universal truth, of course, the truth that cannot be veiled, is Jesus. In John 14:6 He says “I am the truth” and the word there is aletheia. 1 Corinthians says Love rejoices with Jesus, and I’m saying God rejoices with Jesus. I don’t imagine any would argue with that, but why does God celebrate alongside Jesus?
All the things!
God rejoices with Jesus because Jesus is His logos, His concept made physical. But as I said the other day the job of logos is not to just be, but to work in the ears of those who hear it. It is meant to change those who come in contact with it, not to simply be heard. We are told that when Jesus was baptized the Lord said “This is My Son in whom I am well-pleased.” What He means is that the Logos is pleasing. Maybe that’s unclear.
Have you ever explained something to someone and you see the light go off when they get it? That rush of pride you feel is you being well-pleased in your logos, because it has changed the hearer as intended. Jesus did exactly as He was meant to, and I don’t mean the Cross, I mean His example and the wake of awe He left behind Him — He changed every beating heart; EVERY tongue shall confess. So why do I think we are happy in winter? I think it’s because Jesus is the Logos, and in the beginning the Logos was with God and the Logos was God. What He was to teach man was so profound, so true, so mind-altering that it reverberates backward and forward in time like a tidal wave. From our foundation we instinctively understood that our Truth, our Way, was beautiful in life, but in the transformation of death He would bring beauty unspeakable.
We’re happy because our everything leaps in response to our Risen Savior whether we know it or not, whether we admit it or not, whether we fight it or not. We celebrate with each other — sygchairo is a social rejoicing — anytime truth is seen because we know all truth is an echo of Him. The little liar may find himself beautiful, may fancy himself having convinced you to stare at him, but he will always be the ugly ducklig, the silent stone, the pathetic shade to our Christ. Jesus calls to everything we are and with everything we are we sense Him, respond to Him. His beauty cuts through every chain, every lie, every rebellion.
What is it God is celebrating with Jesus? It’s us. It’s their sheep. Because we know His call and our hearts respond. They celebrate that our fire rages on, that despite all we go through we know Him and Love Him greater than anything else, even when we don’t yet realize it. As we close verse 6 today I want to encourage you that whatever you think about yourself is confusion. You’ve looked into a hall of mirrors and gotten dizzy. We all have. But outside our selfs — deep in our souls where spirit calls to the Kingdom of Heaven and the world falls away — we are held by a Mighty Father who never leaves you, never forsakes you, and never ceases to help you. If our God is for us, who could ever stand against us? No weapon shall prevail, no door remain locked, no chain shall bind what the Lord has freed. Can I get a “hallelujah”?