Humor as Witness
Scripture Reading — Philemon 1-11
Formerly he was useless to you, but now he has become useful both to you and to me.
—Philemon 11 —
Television ads often use humor. Psychology experts in advertising know the power of humor. But they are not the first to recognize its potential.
In his letter to the wealthy businessman Philemon, Paul appeals for the freedom of Onesimus, a slave who ran away from Philemon. By Roman law Onesimus could have been punished severely or even killed for disobeying his master. But Paul pleads not only for Onesimus’s life but also that he be freed and accepted as a brother in Christ. And in the midst of this serious matter Paul pulls out a pun. He plays on Onesimus’s name, which means “useful.” Paul says, “Formerly he was useless to you, but now he has become useful both to you and to me.” It’s not a knee-slapper, but it is clever.
When someone cracks a clever joke, it’s winsome: you can’t help but grin and be warmly disposed to the humorist. At the very least you acknowledge they have a way with words.
God made us to enjoy humor. Laughter is healthy for our hearts. Laughing with others deepens emotional bonds and reduces anxiety. Christians should have a healthy sense of grace-filled humor. We should be enjoyable to be around and able to laugh at ourselves too. It’s winsome for sharing the gospel.
In what ways can clean and clever humor be part of your Christian witness?
Glorious God, thank you for the gift of humor. May others see your light through the lighter side of life. Amen.