A Christian Walk is More Than Happiness
We were reading the book of Philemon the other day in Bible Study. It is the shortest book in the Bible -- only one chapter. So if you want to say you read a whole book of the Bible, I advise you to pick it up. I like the book for more than its brevity. It also gives us a good idea of what becoming a part of the body of Christ is all about.
Paul writes to Philemon that his former slave, Onesimus, once was useless to Philemon, but now as a child of Christ he is useful both to Paul and to Philemon. Being a part of the body of Christ made Onesimus useful. It didn't necessarily make him happy. It didn't necessarily make his life go smoothly. It make him useful.
Living in a country where we proclaim in our founding documents that one of our inalienable rights given by God is the pursuit of happiness, it sometimes comes as a bit of a shock to us that happiness is not necessarily a Christian value and that following Christ is not necessarily the same as pursuing happiness. Pursuing truth, maybe. Pursuing justice, often. Pursuing something larger than our own happiness, surely.
Even in our romantic pursuits, which certainly are at least supposed to add to our happiness, we find that the Christian marriage service talks about the love that we have for each other strengthening us to be Christ for the world. What and who we choose should add to our usefulness to the Christian community and to the world. We chose our friends and acquaintances either because we can serve them or we can serve with them or probably both.
I think so much of it becomes about the difference between being good and doing good. When we think that being Christian is simply about behaving ourselves and not doing anything terrible or mean, then we might think we could pursue happiness as long as we don't hurt anyone. Then we have missed the point. It is about so much more. It is about going about the business of doing the impossible. Only God can bring in the kingdom, and yet we are called to live as if it were already here.
There is a depth to the joy of living in Christ that is so much more than what we could obtain if we pursued happiness. It sustained Paul in prison so that he could write the loving words he did out of a joyful heart. Was Paul happy? I have no idea. But he rejoiced. And he knew that he was living the life to which God had called him.
Lord, May we find the joy the Paul felt in the service of your Son. Amen
Copyright © 2007, The Rev. Dana Reardon. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Email her at
The Rev. Dana Reardon is pastor at St.
Paul Evangelical Lutheran Church, Warwick, RI. A lifelong Lutheran, she
came to ordained ministry after 21 years in nursing, mostly in pediatric
intensive care. She graduated from Lutheran Theological Seminary at
Philadelphia in 1998 and served 4 ½ years in Upstate New York before
becoming a New Englander. She is still trying to understand the
accent. While in the Upstate New York Synod she chaired the Stewardship
Team. That began her fascination with what makes stewards -- and more,
what makes for generosity. She has three amazing daughters: Pastor Reardon says much of what she knows of
life she learned from them.