Sunday, June 5, 2011

If We Only Understood How to Rejoice and Be Glad

It has been a l-o-n-g spring of warning my children to not touch the fifty-five gladiolus bulbs stretching the full length of the front porch. Up and down the concrete, the three ride their tricycles and bicycle, often crashing into each other or backing to the very edge, barely missing the two-foot plants shooting straight up out of the earth six inches away. I know, I know...what was I thinking!?

"They'll make us summer flowers if you leave them alone," I have chided, rather loudly...and repeatedly, for months on end. A couple stalks were snapped off at the bulb by a penitent-when-caught child. Then, a big storm came through, its winds pressing against the green sword-like leaves until they now permanently stand at odd angles like some cubist painting.

Despite all the drama, apparently I'm the only one who had faith that the bloom stalks would actually produce the typical eight or more blossoms, one atop the other like unstacked nesting dolls with the smallest at the top. Last week, a few of those tight green buds began opening, revealing the Creator's paintbox of deep red, regal purple, creamy yellow, and pale lilac.

The children were suddenly excited, as if this were an unexpected miracle. I shook my head, smiled and cut the "glads" for my kitchen counter knowing that indoors, the hooded flowers would open one by one, providing an entire week of blossoms.

It has been a crazy ride through intense drought and clumsy children, but I did plant them for a reason. Their very name--"glads"--always reminds me that I must choose to rejoice despite my circumstances. Maybe it's just me, but I need that visual reminder each morning when I step out my front door.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus speaks to His disciples about their attitude when faced with difficulties, specifically persecution. He says, “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matt. 5:11-12, my italics).

In nine of its eleven appearances in the New Testament, the Greek word for "glad" is actually translated as "rejoice" or "joy." In fact, one of the definitions for "glad" is "to rejoice exceedingly."*

I know why the translators chose to use the word glad. It does sound rather odd to say "Rejoice and rejoice..." but that's what the Scripture says. Christians are to rejoice...and rejoice some more, but not in mere fleshly gladness that will only diminish with trials but in a spiritual gladness that defies circumstance.

I wonder if any of Jesus' disciples at least entertained the thought, "Easier said than done." I know at times, I have done just that...mainly, because I don't remember or just don't comprehend the magnitude of grace the Father has bestowed upon me, sending His Son to save my dark, sin-filled soul.

To understand rejoicing and gladness, one must understand grace, an idea implied in the original Greek but lost in English translations.

In Matthew 5:12 above, "rejoice" is transliterated as the word chairo. While this word may not be too familiar, perhaps the word charis, "grace," is more so.

For instance, "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God" (Eph. 2:8, my italics). This kind of grace, charis, is a gift of mercy, kindness, and love from God the father, one that "exert[s] his holy influence upon souls, turns them to Christ, keeps, strengthens, increases them in Christian faith, knowledge, affection, and kindles them to the exercise of the Christian virtues"**

This word "grace," charis, comes from the root word for "rejoice," chairo.

χάρις from χαίρω.

It can't be a coincidence that the word grace comes from the root word rejoice. The two are interconnected.

For starters, there can be no true rejoicing, spiritual gladness, without the grace of God. It's just not possible to rejoice the way Jesus intended with a God-sized hole lying empty within.

Secondly, if we Christians truly understood how much grace God has had and continues to have on our souls, our daily circumstances, our futures--then we would jump at the chance to rejoice through circumstances we would otherwise choose to not suffer through.

This idea seems to hold water when looking at the words of the redeemed in Revelation. While the particular words for "rejoice" and "glad" found in Matthew 5 are used separately numerous times throughout the New Testament, they appear together only one other time, in Revelation 19:7 at the wedding supper of the Lamb when "a great multitude" of the righteous celebrates the Lamb. They say, "Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready” (Rev. 19:7).

In heaven, we Christians will finally understand how much grace God has bestowed on us and our automatic reaction will be to rejoice in our Savior.

Until that day when we exchange robes of flesh for robes of purest white, we must make a conscious effort to seek His mercies anew each morning, to remember the grace He has given us in times past...and choose to be glad in our Spirit.

**Strong's Concordance

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