Friday, August 12, 2005

Become a Fool

In case you’re wondering, the title of this post is a direct quote from Scripture (1Cor. 3:18). Why does St Paul want you to become a fool? I wrote yesterday about the difference between the wisdom of the world and the wisdom of God. To be wise in the ways of the world is foolishness before God, so if we want to become wise before God, we had better be prepared to look like fools in the eyes of the world.

If we’re going to be fools, however, let’s make sure that we are “fools for Christ’s sake” (
4:10). The world already has enough of every other kind of fool. The wisdom that makes us seem like fools to the world is the wisdom of the Cross. “The word of the Cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God… Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? …it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe… For the foolishness of God is wiser than men…” (1:18-25). Note first that those who regard Christians as fools (and the Cross as foolish) are “those who are perishing,” and we do not want to be in that crowd. Those who are “foolish” enough to believe in a crucified Redeemer are being saved by the power of God. Thus, in the end, the wisdom of the world, insofar as it ridicules the Gospel of Christ, will be shown to be the real folly. God loved us to the point of folly by sending his Son to humble Himself and suffer death on the Cross, and this will be manifested as the most profound wisdom.

But what does a fool for Christ do, aside from believing in the wisdom of God and the Cross? (I speak here of ordinary “fools for Christ,” not that specific category of saints who feigned madness in order live prophetic lives in word and act. That is rare charism and, given some of their incomprehensible antics, perhaps it's God's wisdom that their holy folly is kept to a minimum!) St Paul gives us a partial “job description”: “When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we try to conciliate” (4:12-13). In another place he writes: “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested…” (2Cor. 4:8-10). Perhaps we would like a more pleasant or comfortable job description, but being fools, we ought to embrace this one as the way to true happiness and fulfillment. It’s all about not returning evil for evil, enduring sufferings for Jesus’ sake, doing whatever it takes “so that the life of Jesus may be manifested.” The above description may be the “negative” side of this foolish life, but a fool for Christ is also filled with the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, gentleness, etc. This is because such a fool has learned the wisdom of the Cross.

Would you like to become a fool? Are you up to it? Let the world say what it will, but we who believe in the foolishness of the Cross are being saved by the power of God.