Today is April Fool’s Day, and people expect me to do something. I have a healthy sense of humor; actually, it’s often a little over-active. I can’t resist a good pun—or a bad one for that matter. (A good pun is its own reword.) My day feels complete if I can still get a laugh out of my wife after 38 years of silliness.
But I choose to ignore April Fool’s Day. For one, people expect me to do something … and it’s no fun if people are expecting it. But far more than that, I choose not to do anything that makes the other person the butt of the joke. I choose not to have a laugh at someone else’s expense.
It wasn’t always that way, though. I’ve listed a $50 tuba for sale in the newspaper—and gave a coworker’s phone number. (He was flooded with calls.) I’ve had lunch with someone that resulted in a leftover piece of pizza. He didn’t want it, so I had it gift-wrapped, smuggled into his house, and placed under his Christmas tree—several months later. I’ve mailed a card to my twin sister’s office; it was routed through the large bank where she worked before it landed on her desk—an over-sized envelop from Acme Hemorrhoid Products.
But several years ago, it all stopped. On April Fool’s Day, I set up what I thought was an obvious over-the-top prank phone call, but the recipient took it seriously. It was harmless in so many ways, but it was no longer harmless when he discovered it was just an April Fools prank. He was angry and hurt, and I apologized for days.
That’s when I stopped. I engage in a lot of self-deprecating humor, but I will no longer make others the object of my efforts to garner a laugh.
Laughter is good. Humor can be a good, healthy release.
“A joyful heart is good medicine” (Prov. 17:22).
Humor can be a gift too; it can lift people’s spirits, but it’s no longer humor if it hurts someone. And any attempts at humor that harm my witness of Christ are never good.
I was sixteen when I first learned that truth. I was in my last year of high school, just a few months away from graduation, when I was handed back a graded test from my world history teacher. I remember two things about that test. First, my grade was pathetic. Second, something was written on the back. On the back, in the teacher’s ubiquitous red pen, he wrote a long full-page note to me. The gist of that letter came down to this one sentence (which I can still quote):
“Lynn, I understand you are a Christian, but if you are what being a Christian is all about, I don’t want any part of it.”
If a teacher did that today, he would likely face firing and a lawsuit, but I was thankful for his honesty. God had already begun work on me, showing them that living the Christian life is more than just an initial commitment to follow Him. The Christian life is a life to be lived under the lordship of Christ every day. I was beginning to understand that, and my teacher’s note only solidified my resolve to make my life about Christ first.
What had so turned off this teacher to me and my reputation as a Christian? It was my quest to cut up in his class and always have a witty retort. He was trying to teach, and I was trying to disrupt. I had turned him off to me and what was most important to me—my faith.
(As a side note, two years later when I was a college student, this teacher and I became friends—good friends. He had given his life to Christ (no thanks to me), and I was able to personally thank him for taking a chance and speaking into my life.)
Go ahead and enjoy April 1, but I will observe it from a distance.
“No foul language should come from your mouth, but only what is good for building up someone in need, so that it gives grace to those who hear” (Eph. 4:29).
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Thank you, Lynn. Not to sound trite, but I needed that.