Last night my wife and I had a conversation with our son about how I, “make people mad.” It was kind of a fun conversation because my wife kept saying, “Your dad is not a jerk about things, well, he used to be, but he’s not any more. Now, he simply knows what is right and true and he doesn’t back down.”
Those were really encouraging words for me because as I shared yesterday, I have had to be “humbled” quite a bit. But, now when I “make people mad” it’s often because they simply don’t like what they are hearing.
It turns out that when you have integrity and character those are really subversive traits in today’s society.
This morning I was reading about John the Baptist in Matthew 3. He was a guy that had integrity, character, and spoke the truth. He knew who he was and who he wasn’t. He embraced his identity. I love what he says here in verse 11,
I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
How different is his attitude than ours? Can you imagine a pastoral transition where the outgoing pastor says of the incoming one, “Folks, this guy is such a great man that I’m not even worthy to carry his shoes.”
What usually happens?
Usually, the outgoing pastor has either been fired or if he’s retiring and trying to pass off the baton he sticks around and makes life miserable for the new guy.
These are the moments that show us what a person’s character and integrity are. Can we come to terms with the reality of who we are not? This was one of the key things about John being a man of integrity, he knew who he wasn’t. He wasn’t the Christ and let everyone know.
Do you know what happened to John the Baptist?
He lost his head.
The powers that be didn’t like him and had his head removed from his neck.
It turns out that being a person of integrity and character was pretty subversive in the first century too.
What does any of this have to do with Advent and joy? That’s a great question. I think that one of the ways that we experience joy is in the context of living out of our identity. Being who we are in every sphere of influence we find ourselves in.
What I mean is this: We are to be the same person at home, at work, at play, with family, with friends, and with strangers. We are to live a life that is integrated and is based in who we are and the acceptance of who we are not.
When we live this way we will begin to experience joy. Not necessarily happiness. When you live with integrity and character it is not always going to be easy (thankfully you probably won’t lose your head), and so you might not necessarily be happy. However, joy is deeper and more enduring than happiness.
Joy is a sense of contentment knowing who you are and how you are to live.