Thou Shalt Laugh

As a young Christian I used to get offended when holy laughter manifested at the full gospel church I attended. Coming from a traditional denominational background, I had a hard time accepting that being of God. Fortunately my religious mindsets were dispelled once I lightened up more and studied the Bible for myself. Nehemiah 8:10 says, “Do not sorrow, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.”

Recently I exchanged emails with a man who claimed “there is no such thing as holy laughter.” I have to disagree. Not only have I seen it manifest in meetings but also on the streets. Occasionally while evangelizing people have giggled uncontrollably as they prayed with me to receive salvation (including three skateboarders this past Friday in Omaha). Often they apologize thinking there’s something wrong with that. I point out God is making Himself real to them. Psalm 16:11 says, ”In Your presence is fullness of joy.”

Laughter and joy go hand in hand. Job 8:21 says, “He will yet fill your mouth with laughing, and your lips with rejoicing.” Psalm 126:2 in the New Living Translation says, "We were filled with laughter, and we sang for joy. And the other nations said, 'What amazing things the Lord has done for them.'” Other Scriptures such as Psalm 2:4, Psalm 37:13, and Psalm 59:8 mention God Himself laughing. 

Now there are occasions when laughing during services would be inappropriate particularly if people purposely do that to draw attention to themselves or when the Holy Spirit is leading the congregation into intercessory prayer. Ecclesiastes 3:4 says there is “a time to weep, and a time to laugh…” 

Nevertheless, going to church should be a joyful experience instead of resembling a funeral. Rodney Howard-Browne says, “Church should be the happiest place on the earth.” I even attended a fellowship called Joy Church for a season.

Holy laughter is not “another gospel” as some critics argue. In Galatians 1:6-9, Paul was talking about a gospel based on works. I’ve yet to hear a preacher claim one must laugh to be saved. 

Then again, Jesus said in Matthew 18:3, “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.” Have you noticed children usually laugh a lot more than adults? Jesus wants His people to be joyful and have childlike faith. The world is not attracted to congregations being a bunch of stick-in-the-muds. They see enough sorrow as it is.

Jesus told the faithful servants in Matthew 25, “Enter into the joy of your lord.” For the Christians offended by laughter in the church, what will they do when they get to heaven?

“God blesses you who weep now, for in due time you will laugh.” - Luke 6:21 (NLT)

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