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Taking ourselves too seriously

I once asked a bishop how he coped with all the negative letters he received, and with all the hope deferred of seeing a diocese not coming alive under his leadership. He smiled ruefully, “When it’s really bad I read Thomas Hardy! But mostly I read PG Wodehouse and laugh!”

Not quite the answer I expected! But I think it’s a wise one. In an age when we love to be offended, it’s better that we take to heart GK Chesterton’s two remarks: first, the devil is the only serious creature in the whole of God’s creation because he wants to cart people into hell with him for ever; and second, angels fly because “they take themselves so lightly.”

We would do well not to be so preciously uptight about everything which we find upsets us or offends us or we disagree with. At one point Medieval theology wondered whether the ability to laugh was that which constituted being made in the image of God.

So watch Laurel and Hardy on repeat; read PG Wodehouse’s “Uncle Fred in the Springtime”;

and revel in the certain knowledge that one day God’s realm shall fill the earth as the waters cover the sea. And laugh. It all comes good in the end.

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Martin Luther: “You have as much laughter as you have faith.”

Harry Williams: “Laughter is the purest form of our response to God’s acceptance of us. For when I laugh at myself I accept myself... self-acceptance in laughter is the very opposite of self-accusation or pride...”

Scargill House: “We’ve learned here that laughter is not the poor relation of ‘serious ministry’ - it’s a gift from God that transforms and heals.”

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