Laughing with God at Respectability – Fools for Christ

1 Corinthians 4:10-13

Fourth in the Series “Laughing with God”

By Rev. Becky Schofield Motter

Remember for a moment some scenes from scripture:

A young man hears that there is a giant bully that is defeating the army called by God and so he, in his young, reckless, invincible attitude, says he will face off with the giant with his sling and three stones. And the trained men in the army think he is the most foolish young man, but it meant a reprieve for them, so they let him go, only to be shocked that he defeats the one obstacle they could not.

A nation fears for their future at the hands a ruler who has overtaken them and will wipe them out if they are not able to do something. It is young Esther who is able to use her influence in a way some might have thought foolish, but who ultimately saves her people.

A Samaritan woman has an encounter at the local well with a Jewish rabbi who she suspects might be the Messiah, and she does what she never imagines herself doing. She goes back to town to share with the people who have ostracized her for things outside of her control and makes a fool of herself by sharing with them an encounter with this potential Messiah.  They already think she is silly; this could really label her the fool.

A woman enters a dining room where she is not welcome and interrupts men of importance and power to wash Jesus’ feet, showing her appreciation and love for the value he has given her as a child of God. She makes a fool of herself in eyes of the proper men who are present by washing Jesus feet with her tears and drying them with her hair. Her focus is not on them, but on the one who gave her more than anyone ever had.

Four friends who have nothing but hope for their buddy who needs healing and has suffered too long, do the most foolish thing: they dig a hole in the roof of someone’s home they don’t even know because no obstacle will stop them from getting their friend to Christ who they believe can offer healing.

Peter sees who he thinks might be Jesus walking on water, in his weariness in the middle of the night and says if it’s really you, tell me to come out on the water with you and when Jesus does, he foolishly steps out of the boat onto the water.

Paul, who early in his life persecuted Christians and was part of killing the martyrs in the faith, later has this crazy conversion experience and is so sold out for his new found religion that inspires him to preach and teach in the most foolish ways which lead to him being jailed, beaten, stoned, run out of countless towns; and yet he apparently lived joyfully in spite of all these hardships.

The early church gathered on a regular basis to pray, worship God, share meals together, help each other out and even shared all things in common with one another, can you imagine, such foolishness.

A Savior conceived in an unwed mother, of low social class; born in a stable and after he is born they flee to Egypt to save his life. The whole scenario seems rather foolish, why would God want to come in that way? As an adult this Savior wanders around Israel teaching, preaching and healing and not always in the most respectable places and interacts with the less than respectable people. And by doing this he upsets those in power, choosing a rather foolish way.

The Messiah hangs on a cross, convicted of a crime that was made up by those in authority because they are threatened by his influence on the crowds who flock to see him. And in a moment of agony and apparent loss of his senses, he does the absurd and foolish thing of praying for those who have done this because they really do not know what they are doing.

These are just a few of the many places in scripture where we can point to individuals doing rather foolish things as they seek to follow the ways of God.  Christ was the best at doing foolish things; constantly doing the unexpected from what most would have thought a Messiah should do. Some caught on to the alternate perspective of God he was trying to reveal, but most could not get beyond their expectations.

This is what we find in our scripture this morning. Paul is writing to the church he founded in Corinth. Up to this point of the letter it was the normal flow: greetings, encouragement, general instructions. But when we get to chapter 4 there is a shift, especially where we picked up in the text this morning. You see, Paul had gotten word that some of the Corinthian leaders of the church decided that they were at the top of their spiritual journey. They were all that and a bag of chips; they had reached the pinnacle, they had “Arrived”. So Paul draws a comparison between the leaders of Corinth church and the apostles, the ones who had spent time with Jesus and were giving their life sacrificially for the sake of the gospel. And in the comparison he is trying to bring them down to size, remind them that they are no better than anyone else, especially no better than the apostles.

He is offering them a little humility and reminds them that they are not perfect and that is ok. They were taking themselves too seriously and were missing the point of being in leadership. They were getting puffed up because of their position and Paul was trying to help them understand their place in the big picture.

In the text, Paul says, “We (the apostles) are fools for the sake of Christ, but you were wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You were held in honor, but we are disrepute.” He is setting up this comparison to help them to see the irony of how they view their position. I can almost hear the sarcasm in his voice, but also the desire for them to embrace the humility required to be in that position, both as a Christian and as leaders in the church.

Paul’s message is appropriate for us today as well. We can get too big for our britches when we think about our importance and how respectable we are as we look at others.

We come to church and try to reveal that our life is all together, thereby fulfilling the expectations of everyone. We dress a certain way, act a certain way and try to be what others will anticipate. We don’t want to look foolish, as though we may have issues or problems and want nothing more than to be viewed as respectable. We wouldn’t do anything out of the ordinary because we are just trying to fit into what we perceive as the norm. We will fill leadership roles and sit in the pew and let everyone think we have arrived, our family has no challenges and we are very good Christians. We are wise, strong and have honor, just like the Corinthians. And Paul speaks into the story we weave and try to convince others of, but we need to step back and say “No” I don’t want to believe the lie of respectability.  To really share, teach and proclaim the gospel we have to be willing to be the fool, weak, vulnerable, willing to be in the place without honor, and respond to others in a way that is not expected, but more than that, not deserved.

Recent surveys reveal that many young people struggle with those in the church because we take ourselves too seriously. We focus on an issue or two and think that is the most important thing to take seriously and all the while they are simply asking for us to have a relationship with them. Listen, engage and get to know them rather than tell them what they should think.

Paul goes on in the text to say to us, “When (we, the apostles, are) reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we speak kindly.” (12-13)

Paul reveals in his life again and again that proclaiming the gospel is not a life of ease or comfort. Rather, God calls us to step out of the norm, offer ourselves to reveal the humility of Christ, and find the grace and the joy in offering what is undeserved.

In the foolish examples I listed from scripture: David went out on a limb because he knew God was with him; Esther did what was unlawful because she knew her God was bigger than the law; the Samaritan woman proclaimed Christ because she knew it was more important than what the people in town thought of her; the woman who anointed Jesus’ feet was more concerned about glorifying Christ than meeting the expectations of the powerful men; Jesus knew she wasn’t consider respectable but he saw her as a child of God, the four friends knew that no obstacle would prevent them from getting their buddy to Jesus and the healing he needed; Peter and Paul were so focused on Christ that nothing around them mattered more, the early church lived a countercultural lifestyle that caused others to notice and want to be part of it; Christ revealed a very different way, against the norm of what was considered respectable, the way of God in the whole of his life. They all laughed at respectability and embraced a life of glorifying God.

These and others in scripture reveal our example that we are not to fit into the norm, take advantage of a powerful position, step back in a comfortable role or fit into society. We are to live differently, have goals that are counter to what society expects, live foolishly for God and in that we will find a joyful life living in the simplicity of God’s call.

This morning we have baptisms and new members joining and part of what we will promise as a congregation is that we will set that example for them. We will support them and reveal to them this different, foolish way of living that has brought us so much joy. We will serve beside them in the pursuit of sharing the Gospel with those around us that God might be glorified in all the foolish things we do.

 

Today we can laugh with God at respectability because we see in the lives of many faithful saints through the ages that their main focus was on what God was calling them to, not to the standard that the society or those in leadership deemed was acceptable. So, church, what does that mean for us, individually and corporately, as we move forward in being faithful to all that God has called us to as a congregation? Where is God laughing at respectability and hoping that we will catch that vision? What does it mean to make glorifying God more important than what others would expect?

Through this series we have laughed with God at death, at the impossible, at legalism and today we see how important it is to laugh with God at respectability. Meaning we don’t take ourselves to seriously, are willing to be fools for Christ and embrace the joy of living within God’s will. May it be so, Amen.

 

Comments are closed.