"LIGHTEN UP, ST. FRANCIS"

Matthew 6:16 “Moreover when you fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.”

It’s been said over and over by Christians and non-Christians alike that "God must have a great sense of humor", but sometimes I wonder if some Christians really believe that. You see, I've met many Christians whose countenance and sense of "sanctified sobriety", which is in the place where their sense of humor should be, seem to deny God and His people a good laugh or ever allow them to make a funny joke.

These "serious saints" often understand humor and holiness as being contrary to one another; somehow they think that the joy of our religion is found in “a sad countenance”!  In my experience this is a Christian perspective that's out of balance with Who God is, Who Jesus is and who we are as people created in his image.

In Genesis 1:26 God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness”. From the very beginning of time it was God’s intent that mankind be made in His image. Therefore, God used Himself as a pattern when He made us. God created us in His own image and that didn’t consist of a “physical likeness”  because “God is a spirit” (John 4:24).

The likeness of God in us was more of a “mental” or “emotional” likeness which included free thought, as well as a “moral likeness” which included righteousness and holiness. It's important to note that God didn’t make any other creature in this way and the very fact that God had made human beings in His own image defined our unique relationship with Him. So, it was God’s will that we would embody His attributes.

Generally speaking, God placed His moral character, His ability to reason, His virtue, and His spirituality into man when He breathed the breath of life into him and “man became a living being” (Gen. 2:7b). Our nature at creation was sinless “very good” (Genesis 1:31) and therefore our emotions, intellect and, yes, our humor was very good as well. But then something happened to destroy that sinless nature and godly image.

In Genesis chapter 3 we read about the fall of man. In Genesis 3:6 we read how Adam disobeyed God when he and his wife ate of the fruit that God had forbidden. We read how at that moment sin entered into creation and the curse death along with it (Gen. 3:7; 22).

Because of this fall into sin, man’s nature went from one that walked in perfect holiness, communion, and fellowship with God in the image of God, to one that was completely separate from God. Our human nature went from one that was in perfect accord with God to one that was diametrically opposed to God and His ways.

Adam’s disobedience brought condemnation and death to all mankind (Rom. 5:12) and man was to be forever born into a state of sin (Psalm 51:5) and its this state of sin that becomes the driving force in the human heart and blocks our ability to commune properly with God.

It’s because of Adam’s transgression we are all by nature, born to sin. Our sin nature affects all that we think, say and do...including our humor. This is the reason for dirty jokes, off color jokes, inappropriate innuendo, things that my mother said should never be said in “mixed company”, things that the Bible says are unbecoming of saints ; filthiness, foolish talking,  jesting, “which are not fitting” (Eph. 5:4).

But, I’m afraid that in a desire to be obedient and pleasing to God in the area of humor some Christians have become “sanctified stick-in-the-muds” and they have built a “humor hedge”, a buffer that’s designed to move us away from the slightest possibility of inappropriate or nonspiritual humor. However, by creating the “humor hedge” they seem to have lost a genuine God-given ability to have a sense of humor; failing to find anything funny!

These same Christians must also be oblivious to the fact that Jesus had a great sense of humor simply because they don’t “get” His jokes! Jesus’ jokes go right over their heads because they are convinced that Jesus as a “man of sorrows” certainly never laughed and certainly never cracked a good joke! However, is this the correct image of Christ that is revealed to us in the Bible? No.

The stereo-typical stoic Jesus is not found in the pages of Scripture! As I said, Jesus had a very good, and I mean that literally, a very good sense of humor.  Irony is an example of humor that I find God has used often to confound men and Jesus was a Master of ironic humor.

From the very beginning of His ministry Jesus displayed a witty ironic humor. For example, when He “walked by the sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew his brother casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. And Jesus said unto them, Come after me, and I will make you to become fishers of men” (Mark 1:16-17).  Do you get it?

You see, I can imagine a slight, smart smile on Jesus’ face as He said this! You see, the phrase “fishers of men” has become standard and routine fare to us today, but when Jesus first said it, His irony must’ve been strikingly humorous.

In Jesus’ sayings and teachings, His sharp wit and His use of wry, sly humor through the preposterous (Mark 10:25), through irony (Matt. 6:2;16) teasing (Luke 7:24-26), absurdity (Mark 4:21; Matt. 7:34; Luke 6:41), sarcasm (John 3:10), exaggeration (Matt. 5:29-30) , surprise (Mark 10:15) ridicule (Luke 6:39; Matt. 23:25-26) and bantering one-liners (Matt. 15:26-27) come shining through for the one who can actually appreciate His kind of humor!

Sadly, an appreciation of the true comedic genius of Jesus is still quite rare, but it’s there nonetheless…it’s there for the one “who has an eye to see or ear to hear” and a heart to lighten up and laugh!

GO LAUGH AND GO BLESS, BRATS!