An Entrée of Humility With a Side of Humor Please

"'Never lose a sense of humor about yourself.' Perhaps that line ought to be engraved on a plaque and placed on the back of the pulpit, alongside the traditional quotation from John, "We would see Jesus." The Johannine quote would remind us to take the task of preaching the gospel of Christ seriously; the other phrase would encourage us not to take ourselves too seriously while we are doing that task. Moreover, a sense of humor in worship is not only a sign of humility but also of the gospel's liberating power. 'With Easter,' states Moltmann, 'the laughter of the redeemed... begins.' because God in Christ has broken the power of sin and death, Christian congregations and their preachers are free to laugh at themselves, and they can also laugh at the empty gods of pride and greed. They can mock hell and dance on the grave of death and sin."
- The Witness of Preaching by Thomas G. Long

Long is speaking specifically to preachers in the context of this excerpt, but I might suggest the same thing about so much of life. How often do we take ourselves too seriously? And what kind of consequences do these kinds of negative thinking have on those around us? Family? Friends? Co-workers? 

There is a tension that exists everyday between paying close attention to the details and not getting hung up on the details. Every little thing we do is infinitely important. We are constantly setting precedents in our lives and in our surrounding environment by the actions that we do and do not take. Every dotted 'i' and crossed 't' in life matters a great deal, but at the very same time it is true that whether we dot an 'i' or cross a 't' does not really matter that much. We often cause ourselves to feel a great deal of stress and anxiety over the small decisions of life when taking life so seriously is not necessary. The world will continue to spin on its axis regardless of our successes and failures. Thus, the question becomes, how do we navigate through the foggy atmosphere of our lives with the tension that exists between the importance of not undervaluing the details of life and not overvaluing them?

I think Long's exhortation to preachers is helpful for thinking about this tension that exists in life. We ought not take ourselves too seriously because in doing so we display our utter lack of humility. 'To be human' seems to me to be our ultimate purpose in life. When we understand that we are human, we put God in his right place as our creator and sustainer, and we put ourselves in our right place as God's creation and make him the source of our own value. If our value comes from the fact that we are made in the image of God rather than from our own successes and failures, then we will be able to laugh with joy at both our successes and failures in life. In other words, if we walk with a posture of humility, then our faces will reflect that humor evident amidst the tension that we live in. We will finally be able to laugh at the things that once scared us and gave us stress and anxiety. So I think I would like to order an entrée of humility with a side of humor please. That should tide me over until we reach the point when we would see Jesus face to face.


Self-Evangelism, Part II

"Hear, O Israel: The LORD is our God, the LORD alone. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates."
- Deuteronomy 6:4-9, NRSV

This passage is the foundation of prayer amongst those in the Jewish community that I know. Reciting the words of the Shema is important to the Jewish community and should be to Christians as well. On a different but connected note, I am often struck by how much emphasis is placed on evangelism in churches without an attention being given to "self-evangelism." Oftentimes we become so focused on proclaiming the good news to others that we forget that it is still good news for us as well.

The gospel message, along with the Shema, is not something that a person only needs to hear once in his or her life. The gospel message is good news every day and is a message that should be recited to our children, and talked about when we are at home and when wer are away. It is a message to be recited when we lie down at night and when we get up in the morning. It is a message that we should recite to ourselves constantly because we need to hear it just as much as anyone else. Just as Jews recite the Shema, and consider it to be the foundation of prayer, so too we should consider the Shema to be foundational alongside the message of the gospel. What would our lives and ministry look like if we were as concerned with "self-evangelism" as we were with proselytizing?

Oftentimes, I find that one of my pitfalls as a Christian is to be more concerned with the great commission than with worshipping God. Don't get me wrong, I believe proclaiming the message of the gospel to others to be worshipful, but sometimes it can come from a place of arrogance rather than humility. I find the Shema to be a beautiful reminder of our brokenness as human beings before an almighty God, much like the message of the gospel when we proclaim it to ourselves. Thus, I believe we as Christians would do well to heed the words of Deut 6:6-9, and to recite these words often as our Jewish brothers and sisters do.



"In engaging in the task of evangelizing others, the church itself is constantly being evangelized. Its own members cannot present the gospel to others without themselves continually facing the promises, claims and challenges of the gospel afresh. The gospel is good news even after it has been heard a thousand times. It never becomes mere platitudes from history. When the church addresses itself at the same time it addresses others, its approach is more believable and winsome."
- ChurchNext by Eddie Gibbs

Among evangelical Christians, evangelism is and should be an important ministry. Whether we view evangelism as being more appropriate in the context of relationships or conversations with strangers, there is no denying that we are to proclaim the good news of Jesus' birth, life, death, and resurrection as Christians. However, when we talk of evangelism we almost exclusively talk about proclaiming the good news to other people. Why? Every time we proclaim Christ's death and resurrection we must listen as we are speaking. Not only that, we should proclaim Christ's death and resurrection even when nobody else is listening because we need to hear the good news afresh just as much as anyone else.

Gibbs believes, and I would agree, that if we treat ourselves as much a target of evangelism as we treat other people, our message will truly be sincere. Jesus is God Incarnate. He is God who has taken on the form a human being and worn humanity's sin while hanging on the cross. If we think we are not implicated in the life of our neighbor we our kidding ourselves. If Jesus was implicated in our sin then surely we can find it within ourselves to be humble enough to consider ourselves implicated in the good, the bad, and the ugliness of our neighbor's life. We are in this together. Thus, before you walk out of the door in the morning with the intention of proclaiming the message of the gospel to someone else, please, I implore you, proclaim it first to yourself.