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Community Is a Catalyst for Joy

If you stick around with me in this blog long enough, you'll read a lot of posts like this. Stuff about community. I'm sorry... but actually I'm not. Community is a big deal in the biblical text and so I enjoy making a big deal about it too. One of the interesting claims that the Bible makes about community is that it directly impacts our joy. Most of us know that already. It's likely that you enjoy having a sense that you are a part of a community (even if you'd consider yourself introverted). So, there is a sense in which I really don't need to argue a case for community impacting joy. But I will anyway... twice!

Make Paul's Joy Complete

Philippians is one of my favorite books in the entirety of the New Testament. I continually find myself coming back to it again and again and again. One of the things that Paul really hits home is the concept of joy. Whether it's the statement that he has joy (noun form) or that he is rejoicing (verbal form), the topic of joy comes up a lot in this letter. Yet, one that has always particularly struck me is the imperatival phrase "make my joy complete" in Phil 2:2. πληρώσατέ (plērōsate) is the operative verb and it is found in the aorist imperative. Though a verb in the aorist tense typically carries a past-tense sense, when it is also imperative it by-in-large loses the past tense aspect and instead amplifies the immediacy of the imperative. Where a regular imperative (present active imperative for the Greek nerds) might be "wash the dishes", the aorist imperative might be "wash the dishes right now!".

All that to say, when Paul is urging the Philippians to make his joy complete, it is to be immediate. This makes good sense when we consider that the means by which they can do that is by practicing unity with one another. We've already seen how unity is a big deal in Philippians with the Euodia-Syntyche dispute, but what Paul is particularly addressing here is that their practice of unity would meet a need for him with respect to his joy (also see Paul’s treatment of joy in 1 Thess 2:19). We know this to be true ourselves, disunity within our own community (whatever that may be) is not a catalyst for our joy. Conversely, as Paul states, to be within a community that seeks and practices unity spurs on joy!

Make John's Joy Complete

The three letters written by the Apostle John are relatively small but hugely important for our theology of Gospel community. Let's particularly look at 2 John and 3 John. These two incredibly brief letters share a striking similarly (other than their size) in the closing sections. Consider these two closings:

2 John 12 "Though I have much to write to you, I would rather not use paper and ink. Instead I hope to come to you and talk face to face, so that our joy may be complete."

3 John 13 "I had much to write to you, but I would rather not write with pen and ink. I hope to see you soon, and we will talk face to face."

In the 2 John closing we see a very similar phrase to that of Phil 2:2 though it isn't in the imperatival form. With the 3 John ending, though we don't see the particular phrase that is present in Phil 2:2 and 2 John 12, the similarities between the two John endings is too similar to not consider the phrase implied.

Though John isn't addressing a specific act for the addressee to accomplish that would make his joy complete (like Paul was as he described his joy resulting from the Philippians practicing unity). Rather, he simply wanted to be with them and that itself would cause his joy to be complete. I almost picture John writing these last phrases in a hurried manner so he can quickly travel to see them. He loves his Christian brothers and sisters so dearly and that is abundantly obvious in these two endings. For John, to be among his brothers and sisters in the Lord is a catalyst for joy.

Make Your Joy Complete

One of the biggest lies that we buy into in our modern era is that we can be hyper-independent. We don't need anyone else, we can so lives ourselves as the captains of our own fates. This is an absolute lie! We need others. More specifically, we need brothers and sisters whom we are united to by Christ and we need to spend time together and strive toward unity with one another. Sitting on the couch and curating a church experience via live stream worship simply doesn't cut it. As long as it is in our ability to do so, we need to enjoy being in community with one another. We need to be in worship on Sunday with others. We need to enjoy fellowship with our brothers and sisters in the Lord. We risk incomplete joy without it!


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