Would Jesus Laugh At A Dirty Joke?

laughingAbout a week ago I had the rare privilege of meeting some friends I hadn’t seen for 43 years. We all grew up in the same area of what at the time was the greatest city in the world—our birthplace, Abadan.

Those of you who’ve read my book know that at our small community in Abadan Iran, we all attended the same school, swam at the same pool, went to the same clubs and attended the same movie theaters. Consequently, we knew each other very well.

The four of us, among whom one is a believer, spent the first hour of our meeting reminiscing about those glorious days in Abadan, but then everything changed when our fourth friend joined us.

By nature, most Iranians are joke tellers. And, as one of the guys who speaks 5 different languages said, “There’s no other language that tells jokes better than Farsi.” No sooner our fourth friend joined us, jokes began to fly. By the way, some of these were dirty, but FUNNY!

At this juncture of my story, long before I am able to finish the rest of it, the few Christians I’ve shared it with have all rolled their eyes and made comments that surmounted to, “How dare they?”

As I was sitting there laughing my head off —Did I tell you that the jokes were dirty? I began to wonder how, so often, we Christians are not worried about what Jesus might think about something we’re doing, but what other Christians might think about it. That’s why many of us could never live like Jesus out of the fear of APPEARANCE—not what something actually is, but what it might come across as. Personally, I gave up the above fear long time ago. It is more important for me to be like Jesus than what some people might think of me.

You see, I didn’t’ get together with my friends as a “Morality Police”. My intention that evening was to enjoy my reunion with some great friends I hadn’t seen for a long time. I wasn’t there to correct them, especially since I wasn’t bothered by their jokes. I wanted them to know that I loved and accepted them for just who they were and where they were in life.

As I sat in the outdoor café laughing, I asked the Lord for an opening, which didn’t come till the end of the evening. After almost three hours of non-stop laughter, when everyone was about to say goodnight and leave, I asked if I could have just a few more minutes of their time. I then shared my journey with Jesus, which was received with an open sincerity. By then, there was no doubt that they knew I wasn’t there to judge them for laughing at some funny jokes, albeit, dirty funny jokes and I had gained the right to speak the Truth into their lives.

If we believe what the gospels tell us about Jesus, then we know He spent an awful amount of time hanging out with people who were considered to be the scum of the earth. I’m sure being around these homies; Jesus must have heard a few dirty jokes. But I don’t read anywhere that He rebuked anyone for not living up to HIS standards off the bat. And that’s exactly how I wanted to treat my homies.

The starting point for Jesus was where people were, and not where He wanted them to be. He never expected the homies of his time to start from where He was before He would befriend them at exactly where they were

What is YOUR starting point?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Preaching Butt-Naked

On that Wednesday night, I started my message by asking my audience the following question:

“Coming to church, did any one of you see the man standing butt-naked at the off ramp of 118 Freeway and Porter Ranch? He was holding a sign saying something about God judging the nakedness of America.”
“If you’d seen him, would you have called the police?” I continued asking.
“I almost did! But first I decided to talk to him. So I got out the car and asked him why he was doing such a stupid and disgraceful thing in God’s name.”
“God told me to do so!” Shouted back the man.
With much indignation in my voice, I asked the people, “Can you believe this lunatic? Would God EVER ask us to do something so humiliating, so shameful? Would He EVER expect us to do an act that might make us feel uncomfortable?”
I then went on to say, “Before answering my questions, let me read something to you.”
In the year the field commander, sent by King Sargon of Assyria, came to Ashdod and fought and took it, God told Isaiah son of Amoz, “Go, take off your clothes and sandals,” and Isaiah did it, going about naked and barefooted.      Isa. 20:1-2
“I believe the word naked means butt-naked since it’s the same Hebrew word used to describe Adam and Eve’s appearance in the Garden. However, even if you believe it means stripped-down to one’s underwear, as some argue, it was still an extremely shameful act for a Jewish man to perform. After all, Isaiah didn’t live in America where it’s fashionable for men to wear their pants at their knees and their underwear pulled up to their chins.”
“So, my friends, in order to make his point, the Lord might/will ask his servants to perform acts that are uncomfortable, shameful and even indecent by our standards. The Bible is filled with incidents like that.“
A few years ago I had a very strange spiritual experience that was quite unusual and humiliating. Personally, I would have never sought such an experience. In fact, earlier, I’d mocked those who had experienced it. It didn’t live up to my theological standards. Hey, I was a seminary graduate who had the Creator of the universe all figured out.
On the surface, the experience was not only humiliating, but also foolish and downright weird. However, through that incident, I came to know my Savior and his love for me like I never felt and understood before. It created in me a deeper love for God and a longing for more of him in my life. I began to seek him like the addict Origen talks about when he says, “Without ceasing, the soul searches after the Bridegroom, the Word, and when it finds him, it looks for him again like an addict, in other things as well.” By the way, I am well aware that Origen, an early Church Father, didn’t have an orthodox Christology; however, I also believe that all truth is God’s truth.
Unfortunately, my experience didn’t sit well with some of my more theologically sophisticated Christian friends because it didn’t jive with their understanding of the Bible. Regardless of how much that experience had increased my desire to seek my Lord in a much deeper way, they severed their relationship with me. As if, like the blind man healed by Jesus, that was going to make me deny the reality of what had taken place in the inner most part of my being—that deep sense of God’s presence in my life.
Let me finish this post with a challenge to my readers. The core desire of my ministry, Shahzam Factor, is to see church different (the incorrect English is intentional). To see church differently, many of us Christians need to experience the Lord in a new way acknowledging that:
The newness inherent in any situation of encountering with God is brought by him, not by us, and the newness it calls for in us is not a newness of physical or psychological or intellectual experience, it is simply a newness being given to him (and that, too, is not a matter of psychological or any other kind of experience in itself, though it may, of course, lead to or involve some kind of transformation of experience of life).               Simon Tugwell
The Psalmist says, “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God.” When was the last time YOUR soul longed after God with that intensity? Please note that I am not asking how much you love to read or teach the Bible. I am not asking you how much you long to fellowship with the believers, serve others, or tithe, but thirst after God and his presence in your life.  What if to fulfill that longing, God requires you to do something humiliating. Will you be willing to do so? Or at least, will you be willing to rejoice with a friend who is willing to be humiliated so he/she can draw closer to God?