A Time for Sober-mindednes

By: Steve Huston

It is obvious that we have much to be sober-minded about. How can one help but recognize that these perilous times are sober times that require brokenness and love to pray rightly for our nation, our misguided leadership, a widening swathe that runs through every generation that yells tolerance yet shows none, and frankly, a world that seems to have lost their collective minds. In light of  these things, when Ecclesiastes tells us there is a time to weep and a time to laugh it would seem that now is a time to weep although laughter at the very things that should cause us to weep seems to come much easier to many.

I’ve prayed for you, dear Reader. There are times I feel led to preach or write something that will pinch and I’d rather not go there; but be assured it pinches me first as I work through it. In other words, I’ve gotten a good look at the plank in my own eye; so I have prayed that God will fill you with grace and love for me as I will likely be misunderstood. Let me state up front that I love to laugh and have a good time. The joy of the Lord is my strength and I firmly believe that Christians should laugh and smile, showing the love of Jesus to a world that makes me want to cry, scratch my head, and yes, sometimes, be angry over. Laughter isn’t the problem; after all, Proverbs tells us a merry heart doeth good like a medicine. The question is what are we laughing about? At what or whose expense are we making fun?

Pastor Harry Reeder spoke on Gender and Sexuality at the Ligonier Upholding Christian Ethics 2022 conference. To put it quite simply, he knocked it out of the park; listen to it to be encouraged and stirred. While the message itself was sobering, he never talked about being sober-minded; yet several things became clear regarding sober-mindedness as I listened. (Please don’t blame Pastor Reeder for my conclusions.)

I’d been asking myself why so many conservatives and Christians laugh at or make jokes about sin or those caught up in sin’s consequences. Remember when Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson said she couldn’t define what a woman is? Conservative and Christian social media pages were full of various memes making fun of this. Biden, AOC, and numerous others have been the punch line of many jokes instead of the subject of prayer, and laughter instead of brokenness and weeping. Meanwhile their ideas gain traction in the minds of others.

Then I heard Pastor Reeder say that a return to neopaganism “always brings a culture of insanity, absurdity (59 genders and counting), immorality (sexual anarchy is all around us; is there no end to the LGBTQAI+ alphabet soup?), lethality (the possibility of murdering your own child within 28 days after birth and no one allowed to question you about it), and is rooted in profitability (the porn industry  alone is a virtual goldmine).” It all comes from sin; we can’t sensibly explain sin’s absurdity and these are easy targets to poke fun at or insult. But should we? Is that really what God would have us to do? When we laugh at sin it loses some of its sting for us; yet its consequences remain dire.

As he mentioned seven different sanctities (sanctity of life, of gender, of family, of marriage, of work, of rest, of Sabbath) I thought about what sanctity means – “the quality or state of being holy or sacred: inviolability.” Being holy, should these be joked about? Words matter. I remembered that God’s name is holy and how sitcoms used euphemisms for God’s name, attaching it to a punch line for a laugh. I see how these euphemisms have become commonplace, even in the church, and I can’t help but think that as we laugh at that which is sacred we lose just a sliver of respect or awe for that thing which God has called holy.

Near the middle of his message this man of God stated that the mission of the church is “to turn sinners right side up.” Being changed by Christ we are now “the salt of the earth, the light of the world, your life changes, your marriage changes, your family changes, the way you do business changes, the way you’re a citizen changes.” With these Biblical truths ought not our view of what constitutes appropriate joking change as well? If we’re not taking sin seriously, if we’re not taking sacred things seriously, by what means are we going to convince the sinner that they need to be “turned right side up”? How does one effectively love, pray for, and evangelize another after they’ve insulted or made fun of them? Was this the example of Christ?

We cannot be silent about sin because the Bible isn’t silent about sin but why is it easier to either joke about sin or those caught up in the consequences of sin instead of speaking truth that confronts a lie? Many of us, myself included, need a transformation of our mind, a renewing of our mind to “prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” and to reach those who are bound by the chains of sin with the love of God which can set them free indeed.

Twice, in a short list, while warning not to grieve the Spirit at the end of Ephesians chapter four, we are admonished about our speech. Stating specifically that our speech needs to be “that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.” There’s room for joviality, praise God; but it needs to be edifying not tearing down. Paul says, “Let all…clamour and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice.” Remembering that James calls the tongue a fire, let’s take this puritan illustration to heart: “Watch over it as one that dwells in a thatched house watches over sparks from his chimney.”

A call to sober-mindedness is not a call to look like one has been sucking on lemons or a call to having a downcast spirit. It’s a call to seeing sin and sacredness as God sees them. Being broken over our own sin and the sin of our nation while loving God with all that we are and loving our neighbor enough to speak truth to them as we would desire to enjoy the fruit of truth ourselves. Oh God, set a watch over my heart and my tongue. Amen. 


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