Since tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, I know it would be appropriate for me to write something about love or romance from a biblical perspective. I’m not much in a mawkish mood, however, so the closest I can bring myself to some connection is the importance of humor in the Christian faith. We might not think of humor as highly critical to our faith. In fact, we might be tempted to think that humor works against the weighty, grave, and serious matters of theology and biblical truth.
For many people, biblical studies, theology, and apologetics conjure up images of boring lectures and theoretical discussions that have little to do with the “real world.” One of the greatest Christian thinkers of the twentieth century proved otherwise. His name was Gilbert Keith (G. K.) Chesterton, which sounds serious enough, but G. K. was a living testimony that a brilliant mind is not antithetical to a joyful mind.
G. K. Chesterton was a self-professed pagan at the age of twelve and considered himself an agnostic by sixteen. But then Chesterton’s intellect could not escape the flaws of his logic, and he backed his way into Christianity as the only plausible explanation to reality and human existence. Chesterton became an author, apologist, journalist, lecturer and radio personality who deeply influenced C. S. Lewis and other critical thinkers with his timeless argument for the simple plausibility of the Christian faith.
One of the sharpest tools of Chesterton’s craft was his disarming use of humor. Philip Yancey, a Christian author of more recent years, tells a story illustrating Chesterton’s unique ability. At the start of World War I, Chesterton was denied military service due to his weight, which hovered around 300 pounds, and his general poor health. This led to a rather brusque encounter with an elderly woman who was quite the English patriot. “Why aren’t you out at the front?” she demanded. Chesterton coolly replied, “My dear madam, if you will step round this way a little, you will see that I am.”
When culture and churches become as polarized as they are today, people with opposing views stand on opposite sides of a great chasm shouting at each other. When we face uncertainty we move to anxiety, and anxiety breeds suspicion. We take our stand in opposition to others, and, believe me, there is no humor involved. Chesterton took a different approach: he would move to the center of a bridge and demonstrate a remarkable ability to plumb the depths of profundity and bring truth to the surface of clarity. And he did so with much wit, good humor and generosity.
For those who are a part of our church family, over the past few weeks we have been faced with news of yet another change. I, for one, am ready to be done with change and enter a season of stability, health and growth. Change is hard. Change is serious. But change is also central to the Christian faith (2 Corinthians 3:18) and, I might add, our human experience. My prayer for us is that we can follow Chesterton’s approach and move to the center of the bridge as we plumb the depths of profundity and bring truth to the surface of clarity. And may we do so, as Chesterton did, with much wit, good humor and generosity. As the proverb says, “A glad heart makes a cheerful face, but by sorrow of heart the spirit is crushed” (Proverbs 15:13).
This may not be much of a Valentine’s Day message, but hopefully we will all face this day of romantic celebration and all days thereafter with a glad heart, a joyful spirit, and a cheerful face.