A friend once confided in me that his marriage had cost him a great deal. An awful tease and general cut-up, this friend of mine thoroughly enjoyed his mischievous streak. His wife did not. Exasperated with his tomfoolery she snapped at him, “life is serious!” What he considered fun she viewed as frivolous, and in an effort to please his wife he swallowed his grin. Costly indeed.
Life is serious. There are troubling matters of huge importance that burden us daily, and there is no denying the weight. We suffer through all kinds of trials and disappointments, and it takes perseverance to persist when it seems like the terrain ahead is always steep. Life’s lemons are sometimes so tart they cannot be made sweet—this is serious stuff we are dealing with.
Christians seem particularly inclined to become stoic. We know that the revelry of the world is saturated with sin and is best avoided. We know that to follow Jesus is to welcome suffering. It’s best, we think, to square our shoulders, burrow our frowns, and soldier on. Oh, we have great expectations of being happy, but that must wait until the next life. In other words, gladness is restricted to the heavenly realm.
This is bad theology and a horrible witness. It’s no wonder Christians are lampooned as lemon-sucking killjoys. Yes, the matters of heaven and earth are serious, but that doesn’t mean that we must respond by becoming somber. Of all people, the Christian is best qualified to smile and laugh. We are the resurrection people. Recipients of love and life we have every reason to be happy. Shouldn’t the good news make us smile?
Let’s compare Jesus with his contemporaries, the Pharisees. The Pharisees seemed to take pleasure in being joyless. They were a serious, respectable bunch and Jesus’ behavior outraged them. Not only did Jesus spend time with sinners, he seemed to have fun doing it. The Pharisees saw this and denounced him as a drunkard and glutton (Matt 11:19; Luke 7:34). While I am quite sure Jesus was neither, I love that my Lord enjoyed himself. No wonder people longed to be with him. The man of tears must have had a radiant smile.
For some years, we at Fellowship have hosted a comedy outreach event. A comedian is invited and we have an evening of bellyaching laughter. The purpose of the evening is to build relationships with those in our circle of influence. Targeted at those who are un-churched, de-churched, or over-churched we want to introduce people to Christ’s body in the spirit of revelry. It’s a wonderful way to erase the assumption that following Jesus requires us to swallow our smile.
Some well-meaning Christians may find all this silliness offensive. If so, just smile kindly. Laughter is the best medicine and happiness is good theology.
This year at Comedy Outreach, our guest is comedian Bob Smiley, Tim Hawkins’ tour buddy. Tickets are $10/each and will be available at the Worship Center and the church office. Click HERE for more details. It’s going to be a great night!