Joyfully Serious About A Serious Joy

During a conversation with a waiter at a restaurant last week, I realized once again how confusing true Christianity must appear from the outside looking in. A little context first.

My lunch appointment cancelled at the last minute, so I took the opportunity to escape the office for a “study lunch” and catch up on some reading. Placed my order, settled into a booth, and the moment I pulled out the Bible, a waiter, Garret, stopped by my table and asked, “Are you a Christian?” I looked up hesitatingly and answered, “Yes, I am.”  “Okay,” he responded, “I have a question.” Looks like I had a lunch appointment after all. Garret continued, “Why are Christians so serious?”

To be honest, his question wasn’t even close to what I was expecting. Maybe something about the end times or right wing politics, but a question about the seriousness of Christians seemed to come from left field. In fact, many of the Christians I interact with every week I wouldn’t describe as serious. Far from it! What could he mean? He went on to describe the change he had seen in a friend of his who became a Christian about two months ago. “He’s like totally different. When we’re together, all he wants to do is talk about Jesus. He’s gotten all serious. Does that happen to everyone that becomes a Christian?” I was speechless, at least for a moment. I began to respond, “No, not everyone… But everyone who comes to know Jesus will be different, but your ‘different’ may be different than the ‘different’ your friend needs.” Wow, I’m glad I made that thoroughly confusing! “What I mean is Jesus changes us in the way we need to be changed. Being a Christian might make one person more serious, and might lead another to loosen up a bit. Jesus brings the change you need.”

Garret left for five minutes to go clean another table and came back. “What you said makes sense. I guess the thing that’s so confusing to me is that Joey, he’s my friend that became a Christian, is more serious but he’s also more happy. I guess that’s strange to me.” I couldn’t help but smile. “Sounds like your friend really met Jesus,” I noted. “When the reality of Jesus enters your life, aspects of your life that were once at odds, like being serious and happy, are brought together. In your friend’s life, the love of Jesus has produced in him a serious joy.”

It was time for Garret to get back to work. His boss was giving him the evil eye, and his shift was about to end. “Thanks for talking this through with me,” Garret concluded. I gave him my card as he untied his apron. “Thanks,” he said, “I’ll tell Joey I met another Christian.”

Those two words, serious joy, are a great way to describe the unity of soul that Christ brings. When the angels appear to the shepherds on Christmas night, they come in what could be described as serious joy, bringing good news of a great joy. Life-changing, serious news but a news that brings joy. In the final days before Christmas, let us pray and hope for a heart full of the news the angel brings, experiencing the grace of joyful seriousness in the celebration of a serious joy.

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