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Wednesday
Jun102015

Defining Joy (χαρά)

This past Sunday at church, we were studying 1 John 1:1-4. The passage, a kind of prologue to 1 John, ends with John's reason for writing:

“We are writing these things
so that our joy may be complete.”
(HCSB)
   
Joy (χαρά) is one of those more difficult words to define because understanding ultimately comes from experience. It's not enough just to read about joy.
    
We distinguish joy from happiness because the latter seems so fleeting and so tied to the moment. Joy has a broader outlook. 
   
BDAG points out that John has a tendency to speak of joy topped off at 100% (my phrase) with his regular paring of joy with the idea of completeness (πληρόω):
    
The Johannine lit. places emphasis on joy as brought to the highest degree (πληρόω 3) ἡ χαρὰ ἡ ἐμὴ πεπλήρωται J 3:29b; cp. 15:11b; 16:24; 17:13; 1J 1:4; 2J 12.
 

Yet what is a working definition of joy? It's not so easy to come by. Nevertheless, I liked the attempt to define the word made in our Explore the Bible Leader's Guide from this past Sunday. There, joy was defined this way:

"...joy is the sense of delight, completeness, and well-being that comes from knowing and being blessed by God."

I believe that's a pretty good definition. Maybe not perfect, but it's getting there. As I said, joy is easier to understand once it's been experienced. Limiting it to words is tricky.

 

What do you think? Is this a good working definition? Leave your thoughts in the comments!

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