I came across the following quote from Timothy Keller in the book “Center Church.” He says, “Moralism eats away at real joy and humor because the system of legalism forces us to take our self (our image, our appearance, our reputation) very seriously.” [parentheses and italics in original].
That has indeed been my personal experience. There has been a sense in my past where gravity, severity, and seriousness was practically equated with spirituality. I would suggest to you that there is good room for taking our own sin seriously. When I sin, the weight is heavy. And as I long as I fix my eyes on my sinful heart (or worse the sins of others) I will be sour!
And so the quote from Keller highlights the way that a person views life. If I primarily view my faith, Scripture and God as being about “do’s and don’ts” then I will be discouraged and defeated pretty much for the rest of my life. How could anyone with an accurate understanding of the Holiness of God and their own sinfulness tell jokes and laugh until their drink comes out of their nose!?
But the gospel informs our joy. The gospel informs our humor. The gospel says to us, “You are loved. You are set free despite your sin!” The gospel never deals gently with sin. But it tells us that our sins were so severe, that we were without hope, until our savior came. Many Christians walk this life as though their savior has not yet arrived. They protect their own image. They take great pains to keep up appearances. They preserved their own reputations. And I am convinced that many who do so are motivated out of a residual desire to be their own savior.
The Christian life is intended to be one of great joy! The more I focus on the cross, the more a healthy true and vibrant joy develops in me. At the cross I find that I am indeed a sinner that needed a radical sacrifice to be healed. But also, find the most amazing love and freedom in that God loved me enough to make that sacrifice for me. The acknowledgement of the horror of my sin keeps me humble . . . but the reality of the amazing sacrifice of the Son of God on my behalf, propels to the heights of great joy and delight!
A Christian cannot be flippant about the cross, but they also cannot wallow in despair trying to pay for the sins that Jesus Christ already paid for. If we keep our eyes on Christ, we will move out into our communities with joy, delight and even a little humor.