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Humour and the Almighty God

All my life I’ve been a bit of a cheeky joker. Since entering youth group in year 6, I always had a way with words, and it didn’t stop when I came to the bible, only serving as more catch-phrases. I’ve grown up with a natural inclination to pull jokes about pretty much anything, especially theology. 

Nevermind that it wasn’t funny, I would have often have ‘killing-spree’ moments to beautifully pull bible verses so out of context it may be called art. Earlier this week at my bible study, for example, I ate blackberry jellybeans and made a joke about it being holy communion. I would get rebuked for being too much of a ‘stirrer’, but could reply with Isaiah 51:15, which reads “For I am the Lord your God, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar— the Lord Almighty is his name”. 

It hasn’t been until recent years that I realise how hurtful I have been to many brothers and sisters in Christ, and still am. What boundaries exist when joking about the bible and its contents? Where do we draw the line in our humour before it becomes sin against the God Almighty who is to be feared? 

I will admit I don’t have all the answers, yet I think I have one answer – that there is no strict answer. Nonetheless, here are two guidelines I have forced myself to constantly meditate on before opening my mouth. 

Examine your heart

When tempted to make a joke about something in the bible, think about what you’re thinking about. Are your thoughts pure and your conscience clear? Often the desire to please man with a funny joke overrides fear of the Lord. 

As you try to be funny about something, what does the  experience reveal about your view of God and what He has ordained? Biographies of Martin Luther have rebuked my low view of holy communion. Despite still disagreeing with his doctrine of consubstantiation, I am a step further away from dishonouring the elements Jesus consecrated and sinning against God. 

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Philippians 4:8.


Examine your context

Last year I went on a roadtrip with one of my university’s Christian groups. You guessed it – I didn’t fail to offend up till the last day. Saying “get behind me satan” (Matthew 16:23) to one of my best friends wasn’t  smart either. Though I clearly intended it as a joke, others from different ecclesial backgrounds misunderstood both my theology and my intentions. 

I didn’t even consider if there were non believers who could have seen my apparent dishonour to God – why would they want to believe in this ‘god’ who is not respected and set apart in their religion? 

Some psychologists have concluded that there are 16 different personality types, each with a different way of communicating and doing day to day hermeneutics, if you will. We must make it our aim to not cause any of these brothers and sisters to stumble with our insensitivity, as I have failed to do. 

For we are taking pains to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of man. 2 Corinthians 8:21.

Most of the time, we don’t realise we’ve crossed ‘the line’ until we’ve crossed it, whatever context you may be in. I’ve crossed so many lines as part of many different contexts that one could almost call me a line crosser by nature, but hopefully some of you can learn from my mistakes. 

Finally, if receiving a joke makes you feel uneasy about something, what does it reveal about your heart? Mark Driscoll’s book ‘Religion Saves and nine other misconceptions’, includes a chapter on humour, where he teases “new Calvinists who get drunk on dead authors and want to tell everyone else what to do while conveniently overlooking the fact that they have never done anything and don’t know what they are doing.” I chuckled to myself as I read this and thought about the Reformed movement in America, but later realised the barrier I had hid myself behind which this revealed. Part of me is a stuck up pharisee who can write blog posts but won’t get his own hands dirty in the work of my master. 

Humour is biblical. Literally – it’s in the bible. God makes fun of pagans and mocks false gods. It doesn’t take a marketing degree (oops that’s me) to figure out that humour lowers people’s defenses and unravels sinful hearts. Joking can truly serve as a catalyst for change – ‘prophetic humour’ as Driscoll calls it. Especially if you’re a leader of some sort, may we strive together to serve others through humour, honouring God Almighty throughout the whole process.

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