Friday, February 24, 2012

Why Do Christians Joke While Jesus only Wept?

When I was growing up, I visited a church called Deeper Life Church.  They were singing a wonderful song, so I began to dance and shake my body as I did in my Full Gospel Mission. A leader came from behind, tapped me on my back, and when I looked at him, he said, “The Bible says Jesus wept, he mourned, but did you see that Jesus laughed or danced.” I have time and again heard people tell me that cracking jokes is a bad thing as it is foolish jesting.  They always cite Ephesians 5:4. Why would laughter be rewarded in the world to come to those who weep now (Lk 6:21)? Good Jokes produce laughter and laughter produces good health because it is the will of God that we should be healthier (3 Jn 2). Perhaps jokes must be integrated into our daily living as they have great medical advantages[1]. Therefore, in this lesson, I will unravel that God laughs, Jesus joked; thus, the Bible encourages clean jokes and laughter.
Firstly, it should be noted that “A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance (Eccl 3:4).”  Sara had mourned for childlessness and laughed when she was promised one. It was never counted on her as sin (Gen 18:3). In a later passage, God made Sara to laugh by giving her a child in her old age (gen 21:6). Later the psalmist tells us that God laughs at those who plan against him Ps 2:4; 37:13; 59:8. So, if God can laugh, who are we mortals not to laugh? Have we become too righteous than the holy god himself?
          There is a comedy of manners cinematographically enacted in the melodrama between Elijah and the prophets of Baal (I kings 18:26-29). They were competing to see whose God was the real God who will send down fire to consume the burnt offerings.  While the prophets of Baal were invoking Baal to send down fire, it was taking too much time than expected.The prophets of Baal began interceding from morning until noon, but there was no fire. They began leaping over the altar, still there was no answer. Elijah mocked them, asking them to cry louder to get his attention because he might just be in a conversation, on a journey, sleeping, or busy. That made them to cry again louder but this time cutting themselves with their knives and lancets until blood gushed upon them. Despite all the histrionics until the evening sacrifice, Baal did not send down fire.  Don’t you see any joke in the prophets of Baal praying while Elijah is mocking at them? Elijah had a time for everything; a time to joke and a time to pray earnestly to withhold rain (James 5:17). Perhaps that was the Old Testament, permit me take you to the New Testament and Jesus as the case study.
         While the Bible does not say in explicit terms that Jesus joked or laughed, it is proper to suggest that it does say so in implicit terms as his discourses are clear that he joked. Jesus was constantly Joyful (Jn 15:11), and the beatitudes are a pathway to that Joy. Joy cannot be without laughter, and laughter can never exist without jokes.  If he attended parties up to turning water into wine (Jn 2:1-11), I am certain he did laugh. I am sure there is a different mood between a funeral and party.  He was always eating and drinking with sinners (Mt 11:19; Lk 7:34).  Would there be any gathering amongst acquaintances where they eat and drink without cracking jokes?  By virtue of his nature : God and Human, it is normal to see him crack jokes as no human will ever live on earth without ever cracking a joke or laughing. It is recorded in the scripture that little children always went to Jesus when they saw him . In certain instances, they were too many that his disciples were blocking them from going to him (Mt. 19:14; Mk. 10:14; Lk. 18:16). Do children go to people who are always very serious? In Jesus’ daily discourses, he employs the use of caricature: in the manner he calls Herod a Fox (Lk 13:32.), epigrams: on the Pharisees and goes further advising them to take off the beam in their eyes before attempting to remove the mote from other’s eyes ( Mt 7:3-5), repartees: when he asked the people to give to Cesar what is Cesar’s (Mt. 22:21; Mk. 12:17; Lk.20:25),and hyperbolism as to when he says  “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God (Mt 19:24).”
Despite seemingly clear that Jesus joked, there are still modern day Christians who believe that jokes are the nature and works of the devil as they emphasize on Ephesians 4:29. The verse reads, “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.” Would talking or chatting about the absurdities of life and humankind not minister grace to the hearers? The word grace there is that which affords joy or pleasure. The purpose of every conversation is to cheer people up and not to break them. There is a second passage, "Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks (Eph 5:4)." There is a difference between foolish jesting and laughter. Not everything on and for which people laugh is foolish jesting as some are there just to minister grace to the hearers. "Foolish talk" is what fools say, and the fool is the person who says there is no God. Jesting is for dirty jokes or what is generally called blue jokes. Don’t you know them?
Therefore, it is important to note that jokes and laughter are permitted amongst Christians and humankind in general. I mean; even animals who live by instinct do play, joke and show signs of happiness at times. People should only refrain from cracking foolish jesting (blue jokes), and Freudian slips as they easily offend people than achieve the intended purpose which is to cheer up the listeners.

Until then, jokes and laughter are medicine to the physical and spiritual being.

St Arrey of Ntenako.

“Bonyfish beware because the same net that caught the jawless fish, caught the cartilaginous fish” (Hamilton Ayuk). Beware earthly paradise seekers because there is a serpent in every paradise"(Hamilton Ayuk). Idle people write, idler people read, and idlest people read and whine that idle people are taking their time (Hamilton Ayuk).

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