How Should We Respond to Inappropriate Humor?

The following is an edited transcript of the audio.

How should we respond to inappropriate humor?

I hate to be in a situation where something you think is offensive or dishonoring to the Lord happens, and everybody else is laughing except for you. And their only category for you is that you're a dud.

I think it's right for you not to laugh with them. Something that dishonors the Lord shouldn't suck us in. The answer is that, hopefully, they know you in a wider context and recognize that you're not a dud. They know that you're full of laughter, joy, service and love to people, and so they understand that you aren't just being a dud or trying to make the rest of them feel bad.

Instead they know deep down what is going on with you. Or you might even say what is going on, and in a non-condemning way, like, "I love the Lord so much, and I just don't want to treat him so lightly." You can say it with a smile on your face. And they might or might not get it. But later, if they see you loving people and being joyful in the other parts of your life, then I don't think that it will have ruined your witness.

I went to a musical not too long ago, and it was all built upon a biblical theme, and it was all painfully light-hearted and ignored all the main points of the text. I found it burdensome to watch. I wouldn't encourage us to tell stories or jokes about precious things that make it hard to treat them as precious.

I could give you illustrations right now of jokes that have been made out of biblical phrases. But I'm not going to do it, because, if a person hasn't heard them, I wouldn't want to lodge them in their minds like they've been lodged in mine for the last forty years. Even today I have to do a double-take over those phrases. I have to hear the silly use that's been made of them and then I have to stop and say, "This is one of the most precious phrases in the Bible! I'm not going to go there." And I'm not going to put them in peoples' heads through this radio program.

I would just encourage people to not participate in that. If somebody is saying really clever things about baptism, the blood of Jesus, or speaking in tongues and everything is just funny funny, just don't go there. Creatively steer the conversation on to something joyful.

What if the humor is coming from other Christians?

We live in such a media, entertainment-saturated age that, I would say, the typical worship service in America today makes light of Jesus. I've been listening to six lectures on the internet recently on serious biblical exposition from the Old Testament, and there is constant humor being interjected that is of a trivializing kind. I would say that this is typical.

It is very unusual to go to a church and find a joyfully serious sermon where there isn't some effort to lighten the moment with a silly little comment about this or that. It's just typical for people to use humor in a trivializing way so that it degenerates from what Spurgeon called the robust belly laugh of something that is truly funny to the levity of trivializing holy things.

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