Yesterday we noted that the propensity of Vladimir Putin not to joke around reflected the nature of Jesus. Scripture does not portray Him as a jokester or as having a great sense of humor. Rather, it conveys Him as being very serious.
The Reason for Being Serious
Let’s examine this more carefully since this might be a whole new idea to some people. At issue here is the motive for the mood of Jesus portrayed in Scripture. I am not suggesting that Scripture teaches that to be somber is spiritual and to be happy is carnal. Rather, I believe Scripture calls us to recognize and reflect the seriousness of the situations confronting us.
Jesus is referred to as “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” Throughout His life He was confronted by hostility and rejection. Those in His hometown attempted to kill him, and for much of His public ministry the Jewish leaders conspired to kill Him. He was constantly at war with Satan and demons, and ultimately He was in a struggle for the soul of the nation of Israel. Above all, throughout His life He was facing His death, not limited to all the horrors of the cross, but also including betrayal by one of His disciples, rejection, injustice, the beating of His face, the mocking of Roman soldiers, scourging, a crown of thorns, denial by another of His disciples, the laying of the cross on His lacerated back, and then dying on the cross, which included not only unspeakable physical cruelty but also being forsaken by His Father.
But what about us?
The Contemporary Evangelical Experience
As many American evangelicals experience it, life is good. We get together on Sunday morning, sing upbeat sounds, hear sermons many of which deal with God’s love, His forgiveness, His grace, His provision, and other positive themes. Many evangelicals are taught that God accepts them regardless of how they live. Consequently, they can live a guilt free life, counting on God’s unconditional blessing. All this and heaven too.
Therefore, though American evangelicals may hit the same bumps in the road experience by other people, probably their life is better than most any set of people that has ever walked the face of the earth. We have more security, more freedom, more affluence, more comforts, more conveniences, more entertainment, more programs to support us when we are in financial trouble, better health care for when we are sick, and more of most everything else this world offers. And as Christians we enjoy the blessings that God offers also. With all of this why should we not be lighthearted?
Facing All of Reality
Though the above picture includes some realities, it distorts some and omits others. Jesus calls us to deny ourselves, take up our cross daily, and follow Him. The picture above gives no hint of a cross. Instead, it sounds more like Paul’s description of the Corinthians in 1Corinthians 4:8, “You are already full! You are already rich! You have reigned as kings without us—and indeed I could wish you did reign, that we also might reign with you!” Paul then compares their life experience with his own.
For I think that God has displayed us, the apostles, last, as men condemned to death; for we have been made a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men. We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are distinguished, but we are dishonored! To the present hour we both hunger and thirst, and we are poorly clothed, and beaten, and homeless. And we labor, working with our own hands. Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we endure; being defamed, we entreat. We have been made as the filth of the world, the offscouring of all things until now. (1 Corinthians 4:9-13 NKJV)
This is not to suggest that we should seek reasons to be morbid. Rather, as we take a comprehensive view of life, it is quite sobering. The Christian life entails dying to self, as we live it we will receive disapproval from the world, being a good steward requires self-denial. As we view our nation, at this writing Steve Green, owner of Hobby Lobby and Anthony Hahn of Conestoga Wood are fighting for their religious freedom before the Supreme Court. Today close to 3000 American babies will be aborted. We have a President who displays favor toward the Muslim Brotherhood and hostility toward Israel. Christians around the world are being slaughtered at a greater rate than ever in history. Above all, unsaved neighbors are headed for an eternal hell.
I am not suggesting that we should spend all of our time dwelling on the negative. God is in control, and good things are happening. Those blessings constitute a significant aspect of reality also. We are encouraged by Paul to think about the good things. However, we live on a battlefield, and our hearts and minds can never afford to get too far from the fight we are in. Across the last half century we have gone from being a culturally Christian nation to taking on a post-Christian condition. That is no laughing matter. The evangelical church in America needs to get serious about the challenges confronting us in this nation and around the world or Satan will have the last laugh.