Apr 9, 2013

On Joy and Social Justice

The absolute BEST thing a person can do for this world is to live one's own life to its fullest potential.  This means loving others, but also knowing when to say "no" for the betterment of oneself.  When helping somebody else is wrought with obligation, nobody is being helped.  What good would it be to light another's candle if it only makes your own go out, or burn a little dimmer?

Never sacrifice your joy*.  The world needs people who are living a joyful life.  Making the world a better place isn't epitomized by serving at the soup kitchen or giving money to starving kids in Africa.  No, the best thing anybody can do for the world is live out their own joy, in their own life, everyday.

What does living out your joy mean?  For some, it could be the examples I used above--what we might call the usual suspects of serving others and working for social justice.  But there's so much emphasis on social justice in the church today, it has become scewed into more of a token gesture for many people.  If your Tuesday-night-service-activity is simply a "release valve"** to help you cope with the built up pressure of a day-to-day life full of slaving over a job you hate or making a living through shady business deals or working for a larger company with questionable ethical practices, the "good work" of "serving" is actually the very thing that perpetuates your erroneous lifestyle.  The presence of the release valve actually allows the bigger problem to persist.

Batman did a lot of token gestures, namely fighting crime.  But what did Bruce Wayne do by day?  He ran a greedy corporation and hoarded the money for himself--allegedly for the "good work" of keeping his crime-fighting operation going--all the while making himself richer and the poor of Gotham City poorer.  What Bruce Wayne failed to realize is that he was actually creating the very poverty that caused the crime that gave him something to fight.  Why was he so blind to all this?  Because fighting crime by night made him feel better.  He was unable to see (or neglected to acknowledge) that his daily life was causing it all.

Bruce Wayne lacked joy.  And his "token gestures" (e.g., service projects) kept him from seeing that.

Rob Bell put it nicely on Aaron Niequist's blog:
Your body is the medium, your essence the conduit, your flesh and blood the signal – the more clear and whole and healthy and thriving you are – from nutrition to sleep to brain waves to worry to bitterness to thriving marriages – the more you will radiate the kind of love and energy and presence and grace that people are needing. Who you are matters.

Who you are matters, and what you do everyday in your mundane, daily life matters.  THAT is where joy begins.  This world is broken, but sacrificing your own joy will not help it one bit.

Imagine a world where everybody did what they loved.

*Don't confuse the word "joy" with "happiness".  Happiness is circumstantial, joy is not.
**The "release valve" analogy is courtesy of Peter Rollins.

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