I can’t stop laughing. There’s just something about the picture of Bernie Sanders sitting at the inauguration – arms and legs crossed, wearing a parka, fuzzy mittens and a mask – which has tickled America’s collective funny bone.
Facebook is buckling under the weight of so many memes. Originally, I thought I would tire of seeing them after a few days, but they still make me laugh.
The truth is, I needed a good laugh. We all do right now.
Humor is a gift from God. The question I often hear is: Does God have a sense of humor?
That is actually a difficult question to answer. God created us, his creatures, with a sense of humor. The Bible speaks of God smiling and even laughing (though, in context, his laughter is at those who proudly and foolishly oppose him, as in Psalm 2:4).
Though he often describes himself in human terms so we can understand who he is and what he does for us, God is not a human being. Who God is and how he thinks goes beyond our human understanding. He doesn’t reveal everything about himself to us.
So, we can’t say for sure whether God has a sense of humor as we understand humor.
If God created human beings with a sense of humor, though, it seems that he would have one as well. In fact, the Bible is full of irony. I’ve often considered my life a testament to God’s sense of humor. It’s hard to imagine heaven without laughter.
Whether God has a sense of humor or not, humor is one of the greatest gifts God gives us. It breaks the ice. It eases tensions. It heals our hearts. The physical benefits of laughter have been well documented by modern medicine.
Laughter truly is the best medicine.
Not all humor, however, is God-pleasing. Obviously, lewd and crude jokes, even though amusing, have no place in a Christian’s vocabulary.
But what about jokes which make fun of others? What about sarcasm and satire? What about memes of Bernie Sanders sitting in his parka with George Washington crossing the Delaware?
The answer to that is a bit more complicated. Some people use, “It was just a joke,” to rationalize cruel or hurtful behavior. God wants us to be respectful of others, especially those he has placed in authority over us. So does that mean Senator Sanders or President Biden are off limits for satire and playful mockery?
By no means. Sarcasm and friendly ribbing can be used properly to make a point, to gently chide, or even to build rapport with the person you are teasing. The two things a Christian should always consider when using sarcasm or joking about others is the spirit in which it is said and the spirit in which it is understood.
This takes a bit of honest introspection on our part. When you like or share a political cartoon or meme, are you doing so simply to bring joy to others and light-heartedly make a point? Or are you trying to stick it to someone with whom you disagree or to make someone look ridiculous?
In the same way, even if you don’t mean anything by it, if you know it could be misconstrued as unloving or could hurt someone else’s feelings, it is better to not share. Though it is true that our world has become overly sensitive and too easily offended, the best way to help people isn’t to try and “toughen them up” by purposefully being hurtful or mocking them. The best way to help is by simply speaking the truth, firmly and in love.
In the end, Senator Sanders has taken the joke with poise and good humor. The lady who knitted his mittens has become an overnight celebrity. And I honestly can’t stop laughing.
So keep the memes coming.
Pastor Andrew Schroer has been a pastor for nearly 20 years and is currently serving at Redeemer Lutheran Church with campuses in Edna and Victoria, Texas. Read more of his devotional writing and contact him at 364DaysofThanksgiving.com.
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