I like to tease.
I tease people that I love. Teasing is my “love language.” Just ask my kids.
There are a lot of great things about teasing, joking, ribbing, the kinds of joking around that we do with our family and friends when we’re all having a good time together. But there are some critical problems here too. Now that I think about it, I’m reminded of those times when my brothers and I were having a riot of a time playing sword fighting and wrestling and lots of other vigorous games, and my mother would say, “Somebody’s going to get hurt!” And then, sure enough, the fun would often end with someone crying.
I need to confess to you that I have not always loved you in the very best way by the words I use. My teasing has sometimes not been in the wisest or kindest way. Like a sharp knife, it only needs to slip off a little bit to cause harm. And sometimes I have used teasing not because of love for you, but because it was easier to say something with teasing than to address it with serious words. I was protecting myself by hiding behind a joke.
Leviticus 19:17-18 says, “You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.” In the NIV it even says, “rebuke your neighbor.” God doesn’t mean it’s OK for us to snipe and complain at one another. But he says that if we love one another then we will confront our differences and frictions and problems frankly.
This is what love does. Love doesn’t want to allow small offenses to accumulate and become a large issue. Love wants to pull these things into the light and address them with honest, mercy, and forgiveness.
It’s great to joke and laugh together. It’s great to see the lighter side of our life’s problems. But humor is a sharp knife, and we are wise to use it as carefully as we would a dangerous blade. In love, we use it to build up and never to tear down. When any tearing down must be done, because our building has become broken, then we must do it gently and carefully, by hand. I pray that I will always speak this way among you.