It has been said that humans have five senses: touching, tasting, hearing, seeing, and smelling. I would submit that humans universally have a sixth sense: the sense of humor. Just as we all have a different sense of what is “spicy”, so too we all have a different sense of what is humorous and what is not. We all know something is funny when we see it, but we all don’t laugh at the same things or with the same intensity. Whatever we find funny, humor is built on the same principle: incongruence. For instance, if you drew a mustache on a baby that would be an example of incongruence. Now a baby with a mustache may not be that funny to you. The more you see the same incongruity, the less funny it becomes. However, children who see babies with mustaches laugh the most because it is the first time they are seeing this incongruence.
In order to recognize incongruence, you must first have a sense of what is congruent. In order to know what is extraordinary, you must know what is ordinary. Even the lightest chuckle means that you recognize something is “out of sorts” (incongruence). The ability to see what is “out of sorts” is not only being funny, it is also being prophetic. The prophets would point out the things that were out of the ordinary – like when Amos called out those who had so much food they were throwing it away while the people they ruled were starving (Amos 4). Or when Jesus told a parable about workers getting paid the same wage regardless of the amount of time they worked in the field (Matthew 20). We should laugh at these because they are not “normal.” When we experience resurrection, we should laugh because we have been told that it is normal for death to be the end and to have the last word. Resurrection is the great laugh of God in the face of what we think is normal.
It is true that in trying to explain a joke, the joke becomes less funny. Humor is funny like that: it thrives with understanding but diminishes with explanation. Humor is best experienced rather than dissected. Humor is relational rather than clinical. In this way, humor is much like the Christian life: it is to be understood rather than explained. If we struggle with the irony and complexity of understanding humor, then we can safely assume that we may also struggle with understanding resurrection!
And so, may we enter God’s world with a sense of awe and wonder at all the ways it is congruent so that we can have a fuller understanding of the incongruent nature of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. May we see with prophetic eyes the things in this world that are out of sorts or not normal so that we can work to usher in justice and peace. May we be the people of God who laugh, even in the dark times, knowing that the Light cannot be extinguished.