It’s advice I hear in hospital corridors and grocery stores… Laugh. In this era of ‘political correctness’ there are a surprising number of opportunities to snigger at the antics of dementia patients, our children’s disobedience, or someone else’s misfortune. So where do we draw the line?
“You have to laugh or you’ll go mad.”
We can laugh
Firstly, humor is God-given. It is part of the human experience, something Jesus embraced by taking on flesh. In this chaotic, broken world, suffering and joy are not always cleanly separated. Jesus’ cross was an object of torture, and yet it has become a symbol of joy for Christians. The Bible calls this paradox a “foolishness” (1 Corinthians 1:18 NIV), – a laughable means to a perfect end; the world’s greatest joke.
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The cross is important because it gives us permission to laugh at ourselves. A ‘safe target’, if you will. We cannot take our own lives too seriously – not when God has saved us apart from our own works. There is no real need for us to be driven to other people’s experiences in desperate pursuit of endorphins. We have our own ridiculous lives, with ample fodder of jokes and puns!
Should we laugh?
So, we can laugh – but should we? It depends. To love others is our calling. Remember some people might be sensitive to things which we are not. Is a beautifully delivered pun worth wounding someone we care about? Think also of others who will hear the joke. Will they be offended, or drawn into sin?
Just because we can get away with something, doesn’t mean we should!
Laughter is a powerful tonic, but it’s not a cure-all. Laughter is not hope. Christ is. We do not need a series of knock-knock jokes or witty puns to stay sane – and so we must not act as if we do!
There will come a time for each of us when we are unable to wring even a single repartee out of our dark situation, yet even then we can have contentment and confidence in our God. Our sanity does not depend on our wit.
Better than a laugh
If we are given a chance to witness tragedy and respond to misery, we must not joke it away. This is our greatest opportunity! As Christians, is laughter really the best answer we can give to suffering? Perhaps sometimes it is, but I suspect in many situations it’s simply the easy way out. Yet if we hold that God has a bigger plan for the world beyond what we see, surely there is some other solace we can give besides a joke.