March 11, 2015
Luke 7:33-35 Jesus: Friend of Sinners
Should Christians Have Fun?
Recently, I’ve heard a few Christians talking about this. It can be an issue for the conscience of the average Christian – evangelical, liberal, orthodox, etc.. If we’re honest, the main characteristics of “a friend” are someone we can laugh with, smile with and let our guards down around. Right? There’s something COMFORTING about those traits in a friend.
The problem is, the Bible leaves out Jesus’s humorous side. The New Testament writers include the healings He performed but we have no record of Jesus saying, ‘you guys ever heard the one where me and a beagle and Tanya Harding walk into a bar?’ ”
Seriously, though, did Jesus laugh? Was Jesus “serious” all the time? Was He a man of constant somber reverance? The Bible suggests that He made a lot of enemies and that He was disliked due to His fervor and devotion for God. Was He always about His father’s “serious” business?
I read last week, “We’re losing our children to the world, because youth groups are more focused on shooting each other with Nerf guns than they are about getting serious and teaching students to draw close to God.”
It’s a sentiment that we’ve all heard expressed within the church, and I agree. Teaching our kids to have a relationship with Jesus is important. I think it’s “the easy way out” to just entertain kids and avoid teaching the concepts of salvation and sanctification. I also believe it’s our responsibility to recognize and embrace the myriads of emotions God has created inside us as humans.
Did Jesus take the events that happened in the Church seriously? When He flipped the tables of the money-changers in the Temple, it says he took the time and forethought to fashion a whip to use to drive them out. That’s “serious”.
However, wasn’t Jesus also known around town as “the friend of sinners”? Were sinners “comfortable” around Him?! Wasn’t He also accused of not taking many of the religious laws seriously enough? But we have no record of Jesus telling jokes or having fun with His disciples…or do we?
The SFC Summit guys are studying The Beautiful Outlaw by John Eldridge (first chapter recap video HERE: http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=hmUK0-mwMsk).
Eldridge suggests that Jesus was “playful” at times. Growing up in a liturgical church, that term sounds sacrilegious in reference to Jesus. But he cites John chapter 21 when Jesus reappears to the disciples while they were unsuccessfully fishing (like He did when He first met some of them). Jesus starts by keeping His identity hidden from them. Why? For seriousness? To see how they’d respond to the prying of a stranger? He appears as a stranger, a “tourist” and challenges the disciples to “try the other side of the boat” – a ridiculous suggestion from a clueless tourist to a group of professional fisherman. Jesus setup this scenario. Eldridge says, “this has all the makings of an inside joke.” Taking this kook’s humiliating advice, they quickly realize they can’t haul in the massive catch.
Did John and Peter immediately recognize the face of the stranger on the shore or did they immediately recognize this TYPE of miracle as the work of Jesus? John suggests that maybe this was Jesus’s cheeky way of acting with his friends – challenging their staunch, strict, “serious” Jewish belief system (popular at the time) with His counter-cultural, often creative, bizarre acts of “life-giving” joy and generosity.
It seems we have two sides of one coin here. It seems this is another “happy balance” taught in the Bible like Love & Truth, Faith & Works, Freewill & Election. Ecclesiastes addresses the many balances of life: “there is a time for weeping and a time for laughing”. So let’s add to that list “Serious & Fun”.
When Jesus was accused of being a one-sided fun-haver, He pointed out the religious leader’s contradictory arguments:
“For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ But wisdom is proved right by all her children.”
It seems there’s a healthy middle ground between “serious” and “fun”, and it seems Jesus knew that and taught that and acted accordingly.
Serious vs. Fun
Does God have a sense of humor? How do we walk the fine line of borderline sacrilegious behavior and that of dogmatic over-religiosity? How do we make a stand for seriousness in a notoriously fun-having culture? On the hill?