On Christian Joy And Laughter

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I would advise you as individuals and groups to make efforts by grace to enlarge and deepen your spiritual dimensions through sacred study, empathy for others, the building and developing of your interior spiritual lives, and the ordering of your emotions. These will take you deeper in Christ. I know if you make sincere efforts to improve or better yourselves, you will. But I also believe if you try to reach for perfection without laughter and patience, you may easily go beyond the sanity circle of human life to snap and break rather awkwardly from self-imposed and self-important stress. Worldly tensions can make people become ugly human beings.

When we consider the unyielding selfishness and depravity of human nature, it is obviously not too wise to be overly romantic and idealistic morally and spiritually about ourselves and others. Mankind stumbles and gets up but to fall again. Yet by God’s grace we keep ourselves going while giving to others. We demonstrate salvation by grace over and over through that stumbling faith we show in our repeated efforts. But do not expect spiritual gain without some spiritual work. Nor expect from God a state of perfection while on this earth. Spiritual growth is slow; so is spiritual progress slow.

It is true for example that rapid spiritual conversions take place at times. The Apostle was transformed on the road to Damascus by a dramatic experience. Though he was dramatically changed by grace, he, nevertheless, yet suffered from a thorn in the flesh which disturbed him much. He might then say with Psalm 119,verse 71, “It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes,” (This is on the grave marker of Pamela Cunningham, the crippled Southern lady who saved Washington’s “Mount Vernon” for posterity. She is buried in the First Presbyterian Churchyard, Columbia, South Carolina.) There is some suffering for everyone. Christ, being perfect, had to face His cross and lead a life of redemptive effort for others. All, in some way are called to do so. All have a call they are suffering for, though they may not know it, yet they are called by Providence in some way to suffer to redeem things in some life affirming cause.

Yet while Christianity demands from us, it also commands grace and laughter in the living of life. If we do not see how to laugh at the often selfish and sometimes mean cleverness that peeps mischievously out of some of the best efforts in our human nature, we shall be blind prigs and hypocrites. But we are above all things fortunate to have the redeemed and redemptive joy of Christianity in us as well as an ability to laugh at erring human nature. Laughter and joy are amply available in religion to those with grace to see it.

Remember we are saved not only in the next life but in this life by an enlarging relationship with Christ. It is not by a creed that people are saved. It is by knowing Christ. Knowing the love, the happiness, the joy, the laughter, the concern of Christ for others, is what saves us, frees us, deepens us, immortalizes us. Christ is the living Word of God and each of us is called upon to meet and be transformed by the Word of God.

Churches can “creed on” forever, and they will, but that saves no one. Creeds are old poems few now get. One is freed to joy, laughter and concern for others by the reality of knowing Christ. It is not by intellectually understanding a creedal poem in a forgotten language. Christ is the emotional experience behind the poems of yesterday few understand now. One does not have to rewrite the poems to have an enlightening experience of Christ who is still walking eternity. Christ is still out there in time, a spiritual entity waiting to meet each of us. I invite you to the reality of Christ.

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Dr. James MacLeod may be contacted through the Neill Macaulay Foundation.