I believe that laughter is unique to humans in all of God’s good creation. I also think that laughter is a great antidote to pride and self-importance. People who do not laugh will miss out on the goodness of God’s creation and thus
miss a perfectly delightful and normal expression of God-given joy.
In Dante’s "Inferno" and "Paradisio" it is only in the inferno of hell that no one laughs. I do not think Dante got the biblical teaching about heaven and hell right in several ways but in this case I think he was right on. Laughter is absent in hell but it will be a major feature of heaven.
Laughter and personal depth also go hand-in-hand. I once thought real seriousness required Christians to be careful to not overdo laughter, especially in public worship settings. I even said, in a sermon once, "There is not a hint of Jesus ever laughing or telling a joke. In fact the only reference to his emotions we find tells us that he was sorrowful and that he wept." But I believe the Jesus we encounter in the Bible made people smile. At times they must have even laughed out loud. We do not understand the Middle Eastern mind and culture thus we easily miss this point when we read the English text. The parables of Jesus clearly fit this pattern and demonstrate my point.
Laughter opens people up in unusual ways to hear solid truths that they would not otherwise hear so well. People who can laugh are also the very men and women who can shepherd hurting God’s people. I am convinced that they will also have the freedom and joy of ministering to them very deeply.
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John, speaking of laughter: Jim gave me a ticket to a prayer breakfast in Seattle with the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu earlier this week, so I flew out there to attend.
I thought it would be quite a serious event, so I was amazed to see these two men teasing each other and giggling together. Some of what each shared was serious but throughout the event they were making jokes and having fun with each other.
I wrote about it on my blog if you want to read more: