A theology of fun

Laughter is unique to human beings. Hyenas don’t really laugh, it just sounds like it. Dolphins, otters, and our dogs and cats enjoy play and make us laugh but they don’t get any of our jokes. So why do human beings make that sound? Why do we find somethings fun and/or funny?

Most traits can be connected to some survival need. But laughter? Where did that come from? It doesn’t help us hunt, reproduce, defend, or anything beneficial. So why do we laugh?

My answer comes from my basic understanding of who we are. In the Creation story we read this: “Then God said, ‘Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness’… So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:26-27 NRSV). You and I laugh because we were created in the image of God and God has a sense of humor.

This week our congregation is having what we call “Family Fun Week” where every night we do something just for the fun of it. Some might wonder why a church group would organize events with no real agenda. Shouldn’t we do something spiritual like have a prayer, Bible study, or use the time for evangelism every time we get together? While we are not doing those things, I believe we are doing something spiritual. Our fun was an act of worship.

What I call my “theology of fun” goes something like this. God made the world including us. God liked what He created, calling it “good.” God, our heavenly Parent, derives pleasure watching us enjoy what He has given us. Therefore when we are having fun – without hurting ourselves, others, or anything else – we are worshipping. 1 Timothy 6:17 supports this when we read that God “richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment” (NRSV). Psalm 37 offers support as well when we read that “Our steps are made firm by the Lord, when he delights in our way” (Psalm 37:23 NRSV). Christian runner Eric Liddell, whom the movie Chariots of Fire is about, said it this way in the movie, “When I run I feel God’s pleasure.” I think I get that – not when I run, I hate running – but when I’m doing something I love, I think God smiles.

From time to time, I get this image of Jesus smiling as he watches us enjoy one another’s company. I know how much joy I get watching my children have fun. I imagine our Heavenly Father feels the same way.

God isn’t just the God of the serious, the spiritual, and the somber. God is also our God when we’re just goofing off and having a good time. I think God likes Family Fun Week and any other time we get to play together. In fact, I think it is an act of worship as we celebrate the image of God alive in each of us.

When has a fun time helped draw you closer to a friend and/or to God?