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Friday, April 1, 2011

Weekly Snippet: Wise Joking

Today is April Fools Day (April 1), the day when everyone plays tricks on everyone else.  If you hang out with the right kind of people, whatever tricks they decide to play on you today should be relatively harmless (if they are cruel friends, today you will learn).  The laughs you share today might even make lifelong memories for everyone involved, or give you a bright idea for a future project or career (who knows?).  After all, truly good jokes are uniquely creative, filled with good humor, and enjoyed by all parties.

Bad joking, on the other hand, is full of things displeasing to God and disquieting to our fellow man.  We are cautioned to avoid the kind of joking that ruins reputations and job opportunities, does physical or emotional harm, tempts individuals to sin, or causes onlookers to despise Christianity and Christians as hypocrites.  In Paul's words, "But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people.  Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving" (Ephesians 5: 3-4 NIV 2010).

The point is not to destroy Christian's fun or freedom, but rather, to set us apart and hold us to a higher standard than everyone around us.  If we truly wish to be like a city on a hill, or a light that cannot be hidden, we should recognize that with this responsibility comes a certain loss of anonymity.  The world notices the light, and the slightest dimming of that light makes what we say seem like a mockery.  They want us to fall, so that we will cease to make them uncomfortable.  Shall we welcome that outcome?

We say we follow a perfect God, who judges the whole world and punishes sin always; we say we have been redeemed and changed; we say we have become dead to sin.  If the world hears this, and sees that we live as if God doesn't punish sinful behavior, or as if nothing changed in our lives and our priorities, or as if we are comfortable with rebellion--well, why wouldn't the world laugh?

Christians still commit sins from time to time--but they repent, and they cease returning to them.  Because we have not been fully made perfect yet, we might despair that we would never represent God properly, except that we know that God has always, and will always, represent Himself.  The most we can do is represent the nature and the quality of our own faith.  With experience, the world learns the difference. Because of this, we should try, every time we have the opportunity, to show the world how our perspective has changed, and how God has made us different.  His power is real.  Let's show what He can do, even today.

Until next time, this is me asking you to be wise, not foolish, when choosing your steps; God will make the way easy for you (Proverbs 3: 5-7).  Thanks for reading!