So perhaps laughing uncontrollably through a video on ebola may not be appropriate. But appropriate is not always my spiritual gift.
Let’s be clear—ebola is not a humorous topic. Certainly not one to take lightly. Thousands have died, and that isn’t forgettable or funny.
But the video I happened upon, and shared with my daughter who appreciates British humor, poked fun at the media’s response to ebola, not the disease itself, and it put me in tears. Sometimes, we do laugh at horrible things. But I wonder if maybe the reason isn’t so much lack of taste as a desire to laugh at the horrible itself. To pretend we have some control over it and some ability to minimize it if we make fun of it.
Yet, as we continue to celebrate Easter, I wonder if there isn’t even more to it for Christians. Shouldn’t we be the ones who are perpetually laughing?
Laughter at Easter
Because we know. We know the truth of Easter—that God personally interfered in our messy world and gave us the forgiveness, love, and tools to set it right. We know that no matter the ugly, there was a cross on a hill, and a God-man who gave his own body to be nailed there, and a blinding light from an empty tomb first thing on a Sunday morning.
Christians should be the ones laughing.
Early believers thought so.
In the early days of Christianity, all of Easter Week was one continuous feast, a week of intense happiness and spiritual joy. Easter Monday is known as the Day of Joy and Laughter, Bright Monday, or White Monday. The custom was rooted in the musings of early church theologians that God played a practical joke on the devil by raising Jesus from the dead. ‘Risus Paschalis–the Easter laugh,’ the early church theologians called it.
In fact, I find that the people who get angry the easiest, who get offended at the least bit of humor, are the ones who may, after all, be capable of atrocities against others. It’s the anger that gets offended easily, the dislike of thoughts other than our own, the distrust of laughter we can’t understand that causes a lot of the pain of this world. People who can’t laugh are often quite willing to abuse those who can.
If you don’t know this craziness ends? If you don’t know pain is temporary, and the hurt we do to one another defeatable? OK, I can see how nothing would be funny. Nothing at all. But we know. We know that, because of Easter, the world isn’t going to hell in a handbasket. We know where the power lies. Or, no longer lies but stands, strides, and rises in one great ‘Hallelujah!’ of resurrection joy.
Why So Serious?
So why do we sometimes act like those without hope? Why do so many Christians freak out over threats large and small? Why do we say we believe God is in control and act as if we believe it’s all up to us? Yes, there are horrors beyond our imagination happening right now. Yes, I am on the frontlines of helping refugees and praying for the persecuted. I hope you are too.
But I do not duck my head and scream that the sky is falling. Men do not hold up the sky.
Some call this naïve. I prefer to call it belief. Belief that, because of Easter, God wins. Faith that, despite suffering, He has the final say. Trust that yes, things may get rough. Very rough. They may not go the way Christians would like them to go. Nevertheless, His purposes, not mine, finish the story. Victoriously.
We should laugh. We must hope. In my favorite Rich Mullins song (and it’s a tough choice among his glorious songs), he sings about running wild with the hope that we will one day be shaken into glory and abundance.
Running wild with hope. I can hear the wind roar just thinking about it.
It makes me smile. And laugh. And outright throw my head back and shout with joy.
Because I know.
That’s the wild laughter we need to have. The abandon that comes from certainty that we will not always thirst. The joy we need to embrace, not in the absence of fear and horror but in its midst. That is the only place it serves its purpose. Joyous, abandoned, holy laughter only makes sense when it’s in the face of a force that thinks it has won but most definitely has not.
Risus paschalis – the Easter laugh.
Jesus cried many times in this world, but he also laughed. A lot. I am sure he did it with his whole heart and soul, with abandoned, head back, hiccuping joy. Because he saw the horrors of this world better than we ever have–and he knew the end.
The song is not sung in vain. Run wild with the hope this Easter Monday. Stifle the sour faces and dire predictions. Stop the endless blaming for this world’s ills. This world has a promise born in a stable and raised from a tomb. See what kind of peace on earth your wild, laughing hope can bring.