I think that most Christians have their underwear on too tight. We, as Christians, shouldn’t take ourselves or anything else too seriously...except for God and what he says.
I’ve never been to a wake where there wasn’t laughter. One of the things that never ceases to amaze me, especially as an old pastor, is resilience, faith, joy, and laughter in the face of some of the most devastating human circumstances. There really is no explanation for it except God.
The English word for “foolishness” in 1 Corinthians 1:18-2:5 means “foolishness” in the Greek. It refers to the mind as in a “lack of sanity.” It is the opposite of prudence (or, in the Presbyterian sense of that word, doing things “decently and in order”). In other words, a foolish person laughs when there isn’t any reason to laugh.
Jesus, foolishness, laughter, and tragedy go together.
So if you really want to chill out and laugh more, there are some things you have to stop.
Stop trying to make sense of what doesn’t make sense.
“For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing...” (1 Corinthians 1:18).
“For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles” (1 Corinthians 1:22-23).
Gerhard Forde, the late Lutheran theologian, in his book Justification by Faith, wrote this:
The gospel of justification by faith is such a shocker, such an explosion, because it is an absolutely unconditional promise. It is not an "if-then" kind of statement, but "because-therefore" pronouncement: because Jesus died and rose, your sins are forgiven and you are righteous in the sight of God! It bursts in upon our little world all shut up and barricaded behind our accustomed conditional thinking as some strange comet from goodness-knows-where, something we can't really seem to wrap our minds around, the logic of which appears closed to us. How can it be entirely unconditional? Isn't it terribly dangerous? How can anyone say flat out, "You are righteous for Jesus' sake? Is there not some price to be paid, some-thing (however minuscule) to be done? After all, there can't be such thing as a free lunch, can there?"
You see, we really are sealed up in the prison of our conditional thinking. It is terribly difficult for us to get out, and even if someone batters down the door and shatters the bars, chances are we will stay in the prison anyway! We seem always to want to hold out for something somehow, that little bit of something, and we do it with a passion and an anxiety that betrays its true source—the Old Adam that just does not want to lose control.
There is something to be said for evidential and classical apologetics; but frankly, trying to convince someone of the veracity of the Christian faith is next to impossible. This thing really doesn’t make sense, but it’s true. If you believe it or not, it still doesn’t make sense.
A Friedrich Nietzsche quote: “And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.”
Quit trying to make sense of it...and you’ll laugh more.
Stop trying to control what can’t be controlled.
“God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God (1 Corinthians 1:28-29).
I hate vacations. (I’m better, but it’s always a struggle.) A friend pointed out that my real problem is control. He’s right.
A lot of religion is about control. Church discipline can be that. “Decently and in order” can be that. Protecting religious institutions can be that.
Since I’ve started wearing hearing aids, I’ve learned a lot about hearing. Did you know that hearing isn’t just about hearing? It’s about direction. With hearing aids, I never know where sound is coming from...I have absolutely no control over it. I also have no control over my ability to hear. I hate it. (I’ve told Jesus that if he really loved me, he would heal me, and he laughs.)
This week, you might find out you have cancer. You might win the lottery. Your son or daughter might reject the faith. You might be fired. Or alternatively, you might get a promotion and a raise.
What are you going to do about it? Whatever happens, God is God and God is sovereign.
Quit trying to be God...and you’ll laugh more.
Stop trying to protect what can’t be protected.
“And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom” (1 Corinthians 2:1).
Paul is saying that he has given up trying to be somebody and to protect his reputation. Jesus is enough.
I’ll never tire talking about Hurricane Andrew. We lost our house. A contractor stole from us and we had piles of liens on the house. My mother had just died. We were living in a small apartment with one window that looked out at a brick wall. And then someone stole our car.
Heading out to church, no less, I went out to my car...and it wasn’t there. I said to the Lord, “Really?” Ordinarily I would have found my gun and started looking for the car. Instead, I went back to the apartment and said to my wife Anna, “Somebody stole God’s car.” Then we both started giggling and couldn’t stop.
Do you know what I remember most about those days? I remember the laughter and the freedom. We had lost it all...and we were truly free.
What if you no longer had to protect your stuff? What if you no longer had to protect your reputation? What if you just put it all on the altar? You would be free.
Quit trying to protect...and you’ll laugh more.
Stop feeling guilty about what has already been forgiven.
“And because of him, you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption...” (1 Corinthians 1:30).
Do you feel guilty? It’s the guilt you felt last night or last week, the guilt you have carried all your life. It’s the sadness and the pain of it, and the way it keeps coming back.
Dr. Paul Brand, the author (along with Philip Yancey) of Fearfully and Wonderfully Made, was an incredible scholar and a missionary doctor. He was thankful for pain because he saw it as a key to healing and protection. For much of his life, Dr. Brand worked with lepers. He discovered that the missing fingers, hands, eyes, and appendages of lepers weren’t because of the disease...but because leprosy removes all pain. So, for instance, if you put your hand down on a hot stove, you jerk it away. A leper, because there is no pain, leaves his hand there.
Guilt is like that. It is an indication that something is wrong.
The next time you feel guilty, do two things. First, run to Jesus. And then thank him for his forgiveness. What caused the pain was forgiven long before you were ever born. The guilt had only one purpose...to get you to Jesus.
Quit feeling guilty...and you’ll laugh more.
Stop trying to write a future that’s already settled.
“For it is written, ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart’” (1 Corinthians 1:19).
That’s how this thing is going to end.
Someone has said that if you want to understand Revelation, don’t buy a commentary...just remember two words, “God wins.”
When you combine those two words, “God wins,” with the other two words, “Stop it,” there will be laughter.
So quit wondering about the end of the story...and you’ll laugh more.
You can hear it in Mercy’s words from The Pilgrim’s Progress: “And I did laugh, and laugh and laugh.”