So, go with me here. Stop with me if you have already heard this.
A friend told me a joke via social media this past week that I did not think was very funny. That is always an awkward moment. Do I send back a quick “LOL” to this person? Do I say anything? Do I ignore it altogether?
What I’ve noticed is that an interesting job is given to those who hear bad jokes. Instead of having the license to ignore or critique a bad joke, we are required to give an obligatory laugh. If we don’t, the joke teller doesn’t normally think of the obvious conclusion, “I told a bad joke.” What I’ve noticed is that the joke-teller-who-doesn’t-get-a-laugh concludes, “Gee, that person doesn’t have a good sense of humor.”
Isn’t that interesting? Social mores have changed the very nature of comedic exchange. Instead of person telling a joke to make his/her friends laugh… our primary need for telling jokes has become for us to receive confirmation that we are a funny person. So, telling a joke is more about our need for identity formation than cheering up a friend or enjoying community.
Deciding to be a part of a local Christian community is a challenge. The Church devotes itself not only to the proclamation that Jesus Christ is raised from the dead (confirming that he is the world’s one true Lord) but also devotes itself to the task of redeeming the most primal elements of human existence: self, community, health, peace, rest, devotion, purpose, etc. One of the challenging parts of being a pastor, then, is to create a culture where a person knows, in the same move, that being a part of the church is not about them, yet integrally committed to them, or as Jesus shared, “If you want to keep your life, you must lose it.”
“So I have to lose it… to keep it? Which is it?”
Perhaps this is why we find the bookends of humanity in our church contexts. On the one hand, we have those that are incredibly generous, differentiated, healthy and a joy to be around. On the other hand, we have those who will purposely drift from Christian community to see, “if anyone notices… if anyone will chase me.”
There is a longer conversation needed here about how our local communities often function to underwrite consumerism, the app of Western culture. We can hammer that out another time.
For now, let’s imagine that our identity within the church can be described in metaphors used by many of the biblical minds:
Paul- Body with many parts. Each part cannot claim to be the other, nor excuse the other. Each has a function and role that animates the function of the whole system.
Paul- Yard stick. Each has a measure of faith, that may not be the exact same measure, but all measures are needed to make up the whole.
Peter- Temple. Each are living stones, placed on the walls of a new temple, each having responsibility to rest and to support the bricks around it.
Perhaps for now, the image that I’ll use for myself at this point, is:
“I won’t make the folks I share life with laugh at my bad jokes, as long as they don’t mind if I tell them from time to time.”
Perhaps this is the Christological move that will prevent me from handing out roles to others so I don’t have to be transformed and it allows me to confess that I need community to work out what God is doing deep within me.