Friday, March 21, 2008

Fool's Wisdom

Today is Good Friday — the crucifixion of our Lord. Paul once wrote to the Corinthians that his message was nothing but Jesus Christ and Him crucified. He wants the Corinthians to know exactly what he means by that (see 1Cor 1:18–2:5). We need to understand it too.

Paul says there is a choice to make: human wisdom or what God has done through the cross of Jesus Christ. Either we embrace human wisdom or we embrace the cross; it is impossible to do both.

What is wrong with human wisdom? In the context of which Paul is speaking, human wisdom leaves God out. It is based on a distorted human perception of reality. It deals with life in this world as though that is all there is. We want security, comfort, pleasure and prestige, but we lose the perspective of a very temporal existence. We do not want to face the fact that we will all die. We will not carry our possessions with us. We have little control over whether our end will be painless or painful, and what others think about us will not matter so much when that time comes.

If human wisdom is not a good choice, then there's a second question: Why is God's wisdom “foolish?” This is really one more way to see why human wisdom is so wrong. The folly of human wisdom is that it calls God's wisdom foolish, when in fact it's just the other way around. One of the great themes of the Scriptures is the great reversal. In words Paul uses a bit later, God uses the things that are not to nullify the things that are.

What are "the things that are?" They are the things we see, things we recognize as being important in this world. And "the things that are not?" That is harder to explain because we are trying to see and understand the very things the world says are foolish — the things which do not even appear to be true except by faith.

So what is the issue of fool's wisdom? The short answer is: life and death. That is the crux of the cross.

And how should we present our faith to the world? A big theme among some Christians today is how to “market the church.” How did God show his wisdom? What did Paul understand the message to be? His answer is we preach Christ crucified. When God needed to show His ultimate wisdom He did not enter into a debate with the best minds on earth or pander to people’s expectations. God has more power and wisdom than we can fathom, but when God did His ultimate act on earth it was something that human reasoning calls sheer stupidity.

God's wisdom — and our message, if we are in tune with God — is Christ crucified. Maybe we have heard that so much we have lost our sensitivity to what it means. According to human wisdom, one either has a messiah or a crucifixion — not both. For the world, having a messiah means power, splendor and triumph. A crucifixion means weakness, humiliation and defeat. Human wisdom says why not preach a message that will attract the sign seeker? the lover of wisdom? or the one who wants comfort or pleasure or prestige or security more than any other thing in this world? To ask that question is to miss fool's wisdom.

To embrace fool's wisdom is to take an awful risk. It is to turn away from everything that our ties to this world would tell us are most important. All we are left with is the essence of faith. We either trust God, believe that life can come from death and so be saved, or we keep our pretensions and perish —pretensions that this world, our place in it, and the things we have are somehow immune from the death that is already all around us.

Before we are anything else, if we are faithful Christians, we are people who both follow and model our lives after a Man who died a criminal's death in public execution. It is only by faith that we call that a victory; the unbelieving world certainly does not see it as such. But that is what we are offered today — either the way of the world with its outward respectability, or the way of the cross with a call for us to come and die. That is the wisdom God offers.

We are in a marketing war for our very souls. On one billboard there is a collage of pictures. They show life as a well ordered experience with nice homes, shopping malls and restaurants, and well-dressed, happy people. On another billboard is a lonely Man who claims to be the king of the world, only His crown is made of thorns and His life seems to have ended in failure. To this day it looks like the world on the other billboard is actually winning. I only ask this one thing: Whose commercial are we believing?

No comments:

Site Meter