Science has proven that humor is good for a person's health. However, there is a limit to what the Bible permits us to laugh about. Solomon in Ecclesiastes 3:4 says that there is
A time to weep, and a time to laugh.Furthermore, jokes that are immoral are sinful. Jesus said,
"A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh," (Luke 6:45).Knowing this, is joking about religion a sin?
The Bible teaches that we are to hate the sin and love the sinner. When we preach against a particular belief or practice, it is not done with prejudice toward the individual, nor to make fun of his religion. Rather, it is done in order to show them the truth. In Jude 1:21-23, we read,
Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. And of some have compassion, making a difference: And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh.
Jesus and His apostles were mocked for promoting a new kind of religion. For example,
the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the common hall, and gathered unto him the whole band of soldiers. And they stripped him, and put on him a scarlet robe. And when they had platted a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand: and they bowed the knee before him, and mocked him, saying, "Hail, King of the Jews!" And they spit upon him, and took the reed, and smote him on the head. And after that they had mocked him, they took the robe off from him, and put his own raiment on him, and led him away to crucify him, (Matthew 27:27-31).
Another example can be found in Acts 17:5-8, where Jason and other brethren were made fun of and accused of turning the world upside down. The Scripture says,
But the Jews which believed not, moved with envy, took unto them certain lewd fellows of the baser sort, and gathered a company, and set all the city on an uproar, and assaulted the house of Jason, and sought to bring them out to the people. And when they found them not, they drew Jason and certain brethren unto the rulers of the city, crying, These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also; Whom Jason hath received: and these all do contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, one Jesus. And they troubled the people and the rulers of the city, when they heard these things.
It is one thing to use a joke about ourselves, such as relating a humorous thought we had after observing or being a part of a situation and using it to illustrate a particular point in a lesson. These types of jokes are permissable simply because Jesus used parables to help the people understand the teaching. On the other hand, it is wrong to make statements that the Bible does not teach and turn them into jokes. In doing so, we are playing with the word of God. We would do well to remember what the apostle Paul writes to Titus concerning sound speech.
In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works: in doctrine shewing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity, Sound speech, that cannot be condemned; that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you, (Titus 2:7-8).
In today's world, there are many attacks made on those who possess a spiritually conservative mindset (heretofore called "conservative"). People who diligently strive to follow the words of Christ as stated in the New Testament are criticized for doing so, earning such titles as "Pharisee," "legalist," and others. Unfortunately, many of these attacks come because of false impressions and lack of understanding about the motives and desires of these conservatives. I would like to examine these motives now.
These Christians recognize the need for a faith as the Bereans,
Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily, to see whether these things were so (Acts 17:11).The need for such faith is made evident in two verses:
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1).
But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and whatever is not from faith is sin (Romans 14:23) .The Christian must be convicted of everything he believes. Often he will face fire and criticism for his incessant demand of Scriptural evidence for beliefs, but he realizes that this is necessary to determine whether or not such doctrines are of faith or of sin.
The Christian will also follow 2 Corinthians 13:5:
Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you-- unless indeed you fail the test?
The Christian will constantly examine his own doctrines and beliefs, and also those of his church to make sure that they conform to the truths presented in the Word of God. He will be humble enough to see his errors and to correct them for his own betterment, and he will attempt to show where others have departed from the Word of God gently, so that he may lead them to the truth, and will cover a multitude of sins (James 5:20).
The Christian may be called a "Pharisee" at some point, but will remember that the error of the Pharisees was not in doing the Law, but that they selected only parts of the Law which they will fulfill (Matthew 23:23). The Christian will not hold to only part of the words of Christ, but will fulfill all of them. He also will not live a life of ritual, as the Pharisees did (Matthew 23:27-28), but will strive to follow the commandment of Christ, to worship in Spirit and in truth (John 4:24), being obedient in all things (2 Corinthians 10:5).
The Christian may be called an "anti," but he will only be against what Paul was against in 2 Corinthians 10:5-6:
We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, and we are ready to punish all disobedience, whenever your obedience is complete.
"Legalist" is another term which the Christian may hear, and it may be accurate, but a more accurate term would be "loyalist." The Christian is loyal to Christ and to His Word, and attempt to obey Him in all things (1 Peter 1:2).
These insults and ad hominems often mask false impressions of the motives of these Christians. They are often believed to be isolationist, cold, focused on "working for their salvation," and denying the grace of God. This impression is not so, for these Christians simply want to follow Christ as He has determined. They see in the Bible the need for works (James 2:14-26, Philippians 2:12), yet will not deny God's grace as given on the cross (John 3:16). They are far from exclusive and cold, for they have true love, "not rejoic[ing] in unrighteousness, but rejoic[ing] with the truth" (1 Corinthians 13:6). There is sincere love for the brethren, but there is no love for unrighteousness and error. If any idea does not conform with the New Testament, it is not accepted; it is this belief that often brings the idea that conservative Christians condemn other groups. They try to follow James 4:12,
There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and to destroy; but who are you who judge your neighbor?but they will also not accept any idea that has no authority from the Scriptures. Many feel that doing this is an act of condemnation; it is not. They are not condemning people, for that is not their place. It is their place, however, to determine how they believe and what practices they will follow. Ideas presented that may not have Scriptural authority may be an issue of indifference in the eyes of God; conservative Christians, however, will not risk salvation and the purity of the church by performing these acts not done in complete, convicted faith. Others may do as they wish; conservative Christians do retain the right to not perform these acts, and will show anyone who does that the Scriptures have not spoken to that effect. The only condemnation comes through the Word of God, which they try diligently to follow.
I am sure that many will disagree about what has been said, and they are entitled to do so. It is my sincere hope, however, that they disagree with Scriptures to show why their position is more valid. Furthermore, if they are to condemn the actions and beliefs of those Christians who are conservative, they should be able to show from the Scriptures where the practices described are inaccurate and not in conformity with the practices of the New Testament. Ultimately, we must always remember the words of Paul,
Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth, (2 Timothy 2:15),that we may always come closer to God and further from error. This is the hope of those who are conservative Christians, and it is my hope that this hope is shared by all.
Ethan R. Longhenry
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