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Monday, November 4, 2013

Jesus Is Fun

Dan Kimball: (Quoting a non-believer) “Isn’t there more to living this life than to constantly be talking about death and suffering?  (Christians) seem to hate this world.”   Fair or not, to many non-believers, Christianity doesn’t look like a lot of fun.  Part of that is because many believe that only sin can equal fun, but another part of that is because—sadly—Christians can often appear as dull sticks-in-the-mud.  When non-believers think of Christians, they tend to picture Ned Flanders, not Stephen Colbert (a strong, practicing Catholic).  If we are serious about helping the world find Christ, then this is an image we need to correct—and we have a beautiful role model.

Jesus Laughed

There are zero verses in the Bible that mention Jesus laughing or even smiling.  Consequently, many people truly believe that He never did so.  Seriously!! (pun intended)  Just because the Bible doesn’t provide a verse on Jesus laughing doesn’t mean that He didn’t do it (John 21:25).  The Bible doesn’t say that Christ went to the bathroom, either, but I think it’s safe to say that He did.

When someone smiles at you, don’t you feel good?  Don’t they seem friendlier?  Isn’t it possible to change a person’s attitude with nothing more than a friendly smile?  Therefore, is it so outrageous to think that Christ frequently softened hardened hearts simply by smiling at them?  Elton Trueblood writes, “Christ laughed, and…he expected others to laugh.”

Father James Martin, S.J. adds, “Humor is very culture-bound.  If you know someone from a different culture then your own, you may find that their jokes are different.  If you look back at movies from the 1930s, you might see that the humor has changed over time.  So imagine how difficult it is for us in 21st Century America to understand the humor of 1st Century Palestine.  Scripture scholars tell us that some of Jesus’s stories and parables would have been seen as not only clever, but laugh-out-loud funny.”

For example, irony and hyperbole have been comedy staples forever, so Christ’s ironic “plank in the eye” story in Matthew 7 and the hyperbolic “camel through the eye of a needle” story in Matthew 19 would have likely been received by howls of stomach-holding laughter.  Let’s face it: It is human nature to avoid boring speakers, yet people piled up by the thousands to listen to Jesus.  This man knew how to entertain a crowd.

More than that, kids are some of the best judges of character, and they loved Jesus.  Loved Him.  When they saw Him coming, they ran to Him (Luke 18:15-17).   Have you ever seen a child sprint to someone who was boring?    If Jesus wasn’t fun to be around, kids would have hated His company.

Jesus Was Fun

Everyone liked Jesus and wanted to hang out with Him.  Children, tax collectors, prostitutes, the poor…the only people who didn’t like Him were the stuck up, full-of-pride religious leaders.  How’s that for irony?  You think all of these people would enjoy hanging around the mopey, solemn-faced Jesus that adorns every picture and stained-glass window at church?

Scholars agree that part of Jesus’s ministry came in the form of dinner parties.  Strangers frequently invited Jesus to dinner.  Sinners.  The kind of people society deemed evil men.  Would this happen if Jesus was a big, dull dud?  No.  Jesus knew how to party.  In fact, He spent so much time with these people that some accused Him of being a drunkard and a glutton (Matthew 11:19).  Obviously, He wasn’t, but He did party.

Where was Christ’s first recorded miracle?  At a party!!  We see in John 2 that Jesus is at a wedding…and not the twenty-minute version we have today.  In those days, a wedding was a massive celebration.  Think Mardi Gras without all the lewdness.  We see Jesus here.  He isn’t there to preach.  He isn’t there to scold about drinking or dancing or loud music.  He is there as a guest.  He is there to party!!

Let’s not take this miracle lightly either.  The Bible says that He made 6 firkins, which is roughly 150-180 gallons of wine.  That’s over 5,000 glasses of wine.  I played around on various wedding-planning sites.  If you are trying to plan how much alcohol will be consumed at your wedding, the average number that kept popping up was around 400 drinks.  That’s about 24 bottles of wine.  Jesus produced around 1,000 bottles!!  Jesus wasn’t promoting sin…He wasn’t promoting drunkenness…but there was definitely some drinking going on.  Jesus drank, and that’s okay.  Jesus did not get drunk.  Jesus was fun, but He did not sin.  Let us never forget that.

We Can Have Fun

Ecclesiastes 3:4 tells us that there’s “a time to laugh.”  Christ is love.  When love is present, so is joy.  When joy is present, so is laughter.  “As part of God’s command to rest and his freedom in the gospel to enjoy the good gifts he gives us, there is nothing wrong with having fun via hobbies, vacations, games, sports, arts, entertainment, good meals, and just plain being silly” – Jared Wilson.

I think it’s safe to say that those who know me know that I like to laugh.  I like to have a good time.  I like to clown around and have fun.  I make jokes—constantly.  I like to think that I’m enjoyable to be around.  Yet those that know me also know my faith.  I’ll put it this way: I have never been accused of being boring.  I have also never had anyone question or doubt my faith.

Mark Driscoll: The mark of a real Christian should be someone that is fun to hang out with.

Ray Turner: Laughter and joy always brings a crowd.  When unchurched people notice shouts of joy and laughter, they are drawn to it.  Being a Christian is the most joy-filled and lively experience we can have.  Others need to see that in us, at work and in society.

Throughout high school and college, I was the “fun guy” to work with.  At this age, every job you have sucks.  No one wants to be there.  However, when others saw that they were working with me—they perked up.  They knew it was going to be an entertaining time.  A fun time.  I didn’t need alcohol for that.  That doesn’t mean that I never drank.  I drank in college, and that’s okay.  The handful of times I got drunk weren’t (Ephesians 5:18), but there was nothing wrong with having a few drinks with friends.  In fact, one friend actually paid me a big complement one night when he said, “Josh, you’re unlike any Christian I’ve known.  You actually hang out with lowlifes like me, drinking, playing cards, and listening to Lynyrd Skynyrd.  If I ever have any God-questions, you’re the guy I’m coming to.”  And he did.  Frequently.  We discussed my faith a lot.  In the time that I knew him well, he never converted, but a lot of his perceptions about Jesus (specifically) and Christians (in general) changed simply because I spent Friday nights with him playing Spades and drinking a few beers.

Most non-Christians believe that they can have more fun in life than Christians.  I need that explained to me.  How do they think that they have more fun?  Truthfully, I think we may need to take a look at what “fun” is.  Is it playing in a basketball game or reading a book?  Different people will give different answers.  Just because the basketball game has a crowd and more action doesn’t mean that it is more fun.  Millions of people (non-believers as well, shockingly enough) receive pure joy out of sitting on a couch and looking at words on paper for hours-on-end.

Personally, I enjoy sports.  Is that “fun”?  (Well…I’m a Cubs fan…so no.)  I collect bottles of cologne.  Is that fun?  I love white-water rafting.  Is that fun?  I enjoy researching for topics such as this, and will spend days doing so.  Is that fun?  I like having the occasional glass of wine with dinner or bottle of beer on the weekend, but have never enjoyed going to a bar.  Does that mean I’m not fun?  So what is “fun” and how have Christians earned the reputation for being so dull?  Is it because we don’t find the idea of getting drunk fun?  Is it because we don’t find the idea of one-night stands fun (Romans 13:13)?

Remove faith from the equation here: If you need to get drunk to have fun…if you need drugs for fun…if you are on the constant prowl for random sex with strangers…if you are obsessed with dramatically violent movies and/or games…forget Christianity—most psychologists would tell you that you have some issues that need dealt with.

Criminals claim to have more fun than law-abiding citizens too.  Does that make them right?

Let’s be perfectly clear: What is fun for one person is boring to someone else and vice versa; therefore, the label of “fun” is dependent upon each individual person.  When non-believers say that they have more fun than Christians, what they’re saying is that they are fine with sinning.

Sin is not funny to God; it is detestable.  Christianity may seem boring to the non-believer, but we must not accept sin in our lives to prove them wrong.  Jesus was fun, but He did not sin.  We can be fun without sinning.  We can laugh without sinning.

Jesus says in John 15:11 “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.”  The definition of joy is exultant happiness.  If you are full of joy, if you are experiencing exultant happiness, you’re going to laugh…a lot.  Christ was happy.  He was full of joy.  He laughed and had fun…a lot.

There is suffering in this world, we cannot deny that.  I know the world hardens us, but faith is supposed to free us.  Being a Christian should be fun…and it is fun.  Love is fun and we have the most powerful, most awesome love imaginable.  It’s just given to us.  That alone should make us giddy.

According to Jesus, we should have a childlike faith (Mark 10:15).  Children laugh around 400 times a day, while adults a mere 17 times each day.  Let’s return to this innocence.  Let’s return to this joy.  We are children of the Lord, after all.  Maybe if we smile, laugh, and enjoy life—maybe if the world sees us having fun…not sinning, but having fun…maybe we can convince them to flock to us.  Run to the Lord.

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