John Behr: A Theology of Joy

In this interview at the Yale Center for Faith and Culture, Father John Behr discusses the implications of a theology of joy for our living today. Indeed, joy, for Behr, is ultimately joy of life, the joy of being alive, a comprehensive intellectual, physical, psychical, and spiritual mode of being. As such, joy is much more than a matter of acquisition; it requires a work of cultivation, a work eminently figured in the life of Christ. God is the giver of life, and Jesus claims that he is life. Life is, therefore, not something we possess or try to grasp, but something to receive in joyous thankfulness, something in which we can dwell, the highest expression of which is to give life in return. We enjoy life by giving life, in living for others.

For Behr, this sacrificial way of living was instituted in Jesus’s crucifixion and resurrection. The feast of Easter celebrates Jesus’s radical inversion of life, wherein true life, true human living, comes through death. All humans are thrown into life; all humans die. We have no choice. But in Christ, we are shown a different way of living in which we take up death and reclaim it, and in so doing become truly human. Only in voluntary and joyous self-sacrifice can Jesus finally respond to the Father’s creation project—“Let us make man”—and say, “It is finished.” By following Jesus in his work of sacrificial love we in turn take up our end and let it be so that God’s redemptive work might be fulfilled.

You can watch the entirety of this joyful conversation below.