By Brandon Katz
So far this month we have learned what love is and what it is not, we talked about sexual love, and this week I want to answer the question what does actual love do? Love selflessly invests not only in the self, but it commits to other people's joy as well. I’m using the word joy instead of happiness for a reason: happiness is fleeting. Happiness is about a good feeling that you can experience in one moment and lose in the next. Joy, on the other hand, endures through any circumstance, good or bad. Momentary happiness is a cheap substitute for joy. So if you really love someone else, you are committed to their joy as well as your own. You would rather they experience joy than happiness.
This brings our attention to a huge error we make with love. We accept the part of love that celebrates another person’s good qualities and enjoys good times with them, but ignore the part that expresses concern when we see another person in error. If you really think about it, what kind of loving person would knowingly and silently watch their “loved one” walk into destruction? And why would we do that? Because they are happy as they walk down that path, and we are too cowardly to disrupt it for their own good? Actual love in this context, however, honestly addresses this concern and looks to encourage people to turn onto the right path. That shows commitment to a person’s long-term joy over their fleeting happiness.
Let’s look at the apostle Paul’s letter to the Galatians. Paul had already preached the Gospel to the people in Galatia, and after leaving to preach elsewhere, he found out that a group of “Christians” called Judaizers preached a different, perverted version of the Gospel to the Galatians. While Paul had preached that we receive forgiveness and salvation by faith in Christ alone, the Judaizers taught that while we are forgiven by faith in Jesus, we also have to be circumcised. When Paul wrote his letter in response, did he say “It’s okay to believe what you want as long as it makes you happy.”? No. He used some of the most aggressive language used in the Bible to rebuke these new teachings. Why did he do this? He was committed to the Galatians’ joy over their happiness. Unlike the Judaizers, who sought to make much of themselves, Paul actually cared about the Galatians’ joy. The thought of their eternal destruction agonized him.
Ultimately, the commitment to other people's joy reflects God’s love for every one of us. This is why He calls us to repent from our sin and turn to Christ: because while sin may contribute to momentary happiness, it conflicts with our joy because it goes against the way God wired the universe to work. To know the fullness of joy, in this sense, means to live for God instead of ourselves because as the theologian Blaise Pascal said, “There is a God shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator, made known through Jesus.” Any other way of life is cheap and fleeting by comparison. This is why He is not interested in religious tolerance (depending on how you define it): because it reflects that cheap version of love that makes happiness instead of joy ultimate. This is why after His resurrection, Jesus told His disciples to “make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). Jesus is committed to our joy, which is why He died for us and gave us a way through Himself to become reconciled to God. And those of us who have been redeemed by our faith in Jesus are called to reflect that same love by encouraging others to place their faith in Him so that they too may experience joy and escape the fires of Hell, which lacks both joy and happiness. Ultimately, love not only invests in another person’s joy, but takes its own joy in that person’s joy.