The other day, Kevin and I listened to a sermon by a well-known pastor. We were heading to Denver to visit my grandmother on a Sunday morning, so I downloaded the first one that looked interesting off of the pastor’s church website.
This particular pastor has a reputation for being a good teacher, a lover of the gospel and a straight-shooter. Many of my friends enjoy his preaching. I visited his church once, several years ago, and was turned off by his tone, but because of his reputation I was willing to give him another listen.
The sermon we listened to was based on the story in Luke 6 where Jesus and his disciples are discovered taking grain from the field on the Sabbath.
Some of the Pharisees asked, “Why are you doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?” Jesus answered them, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He entered the house of God, and taking the consecrated bread, he ate what is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.” Then Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.” (Luke 6:2-5)
The message of this passage is a powerful one. Jesus used an Old Testament story to confront the Pharisees on their legalism. The pastor made this point in the first 10 minutes of his sermon and proceeded to spend the remainder of it poking fun at acts of legalism, beginning with the Pharisees and progressing to every major religion, sect and denomination. At one point I wondered if I was listening to a comedy routine or a sermon.
By the time he was reading (and laughing at) the rulebook of a prominent Christian University, I was squirming in my seat. Though he certainly had a point about the futility (and sometimes silliness) of legalism, I felt something was very wrong with his approach. It declared the beliefs and practices of others to be idiotic without considering that there might have been — at one time — good reasons for them.
Jesus did not poke fun at the Pharisees for their legalism. After all, He was the One who invented the law. The fact that they were good at following rules wasn’t the issue. Their hard hearts were. Before their hearts went so wrong, the Pharisees’ desire was to demonstrate their love for God by obeying the law.
Back to my original question: “Is it OK to make fun of Christians?” I don’t think so. At least not in the way this pastor was doing it. Do Christians do silly things sometimes? Of course. And it’s fair, and even healthy, to laugh at ourselves.
But when when we turn a mocking finger on others — especially those whom we consider Christian brothers and sisters — I don’t believe we reflect Christ accurately. God’s Word tells us that Christ is “humble and gentle” (Matthew 11:29) and His loving responses toward humans who questioned Him — God the Son — demonstrate that. Ours should too.