It’s five past nine, you are nicely into your first lesson with your least favourite class of year 9s when the Head of Science comes in with an urgent message. You have to go to the staff room to phone Mr C Lyons. He could be a parent, could be to do with an examiner’s meeting, could be somebody at the publishers. You phone and discover that you are the hundredth person that morning to ring Whipsnade Zoo and ask to speak to the Sea Lions. When you get back to the classroom you discover your boss has written the name on the board in foot high letters in seven colours and only then do you remember the date and realise that yet again you really are an April Fool! The kind of experience which is very good for your humility
Do you have a favourite April Fool’s story? The failure of the spaghetti harvest reported one year by the BBC is probably mine. Although this year I quite liked the report that doctors are now recommending not five portions of fruit and veg a day but TEN a day! What amused me most was that it was on that very day that doctors DID publish a report recommending increasing from 5 a day to 7 portions a day! But in general we don’t mind being fooled or being the victim of practical jokes for one day a year. But for the rest of the year we hate being made to feel and appear foolish. It hurts our pride too much. It makes us feel insecure and unimportant. But listen to what the apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 3
18 Do not deceive yourselves. If any one of you thinks he is wise by the standards of this age, he should become a “fool” so that he may become wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: “He catches the wise in their craftiness”; 20 and again, “The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile.”
Message Don’t fool yourself. Don’t think that you can be wise merely by being up-to-date with the times. Be God’s fool—that’s the path to true wisdom. What the world calls smart, God calls stupid. It’s written in Scripture,
“He exposes the chicanery of the chic.” “The Master sees through the smoke screens of the know-it-alls.”
If any one of you thinks he is wise by the standards of this age, he should become a “fool” (in the world’s eyes) so that he may become wise (in God’s eyes).
God has always called his chosen people to do strange things, things which appear to make no sense and make them seem very foolish to the world around. Just think of Noah building a boat in the middle of a desert, Abraham setting off for a new country at the age of 75, Moses and Aaron confronting Pharaoh, Joshua at Jericho and so many more. In this world which is running so fast away from God, God calls us to live by HIS wisdom and not the world’s clever ideas. God calls us to base our lives on His word, the Bible and the teaching handed down through His church. The gulf between God’s truth and human philosophies is getting wider and wider. And so it is getting harder to stand up and be counted as a Christian. It is no longer so respectable to be called a Christian. In the world’s eyes, followers of Christ are considered to be simple fools. Of course this is inevitable, as Paul explains, because of
THE FOOLISHNESS OF THE GOSPEL
20 Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22 Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
So much of what we believe as Christians makes no sense to the world which is rejecting God. We believe that Jesus of Nazareth was not merely a great man, and a great teacher but so much more, the Son of God, Immanuel, God with us. We believe that Jesus’s death on the cross was much more than the tragic end of a noble martyr. It was the sacrifice for sin in our place to bring us back into fellowship with God. But for anybody looking for amazing spiritual experiences, like the Jews were, the cross which brings victory through defeat is going to be a big problem. For anybody looking for profound philosophical explanations for the meaning of the universe, as the Greeks were, the cross just seems ridiculous, childish, pointless nonsense. We would have to be fools to put our confidence in the cross of Jesus Christ! We have to become fools for Christ.
The fool who believes the gospel.
We put our trust in the death of Jesus as the way we can come to know God personally. The cross is the pathway to life in all its fullness. We put all our hope in the death of Christ as our victory over sin and evil and we put our hope in the resurrection of Christ as our guarantee of life beyond death and the happy certainty of heaven. Christians are all going to feel very foolish indeed if we are wrong, if the Bible is wrong, if the promises Jesus made were empty. But the Bible tells us, the real fool is the person who says, “There is no God”.
1 Corinthians 1: 18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
JB Phillips translation puts it this way. “The preaching of the cross is nonsense to those who are involved in this dying world, but to us who are being saved from that death it is nothing less than the power of God.”
Fools for Christ. But then there is also a second kind of fool.
The bigger fool who proclaims the gospel
The world around is happy enough with Christians who keep their crazy beliefs to themselves. And many Christians are happy to stand up for Jesus in church but keep quiet about their faith for the rest of the week outside in “the real world”. The bigger fools are the Christians who talk about their faith to their neighbours and friends and colleagues and invite them to church, who put up posters and give away books and DVDs. These are the fools who get ridiculed and misunderstood and sometimes ignored and rejected for proclaiming the gospel. But this reaction should not surprise us.
1 Corinthians 2 14 The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.
But just because our friends and neighbours don’t understand immediately when we talk to them about God, we mustn’t give up trying. We must keep on praying and keep on witnessing and trust that the Holy Spirit is working in their hearts to make Jesus real to them. If we are basing our lives on the truth of the gospel we won’t be able to rest until everyone else knows Jesus Christ as their Saviour and Lord too. That is the foolishness of the gospel and of the bigger fool who proclaims the gospel! And all the time we are living out our Christian faith, that will make us appear like fools as well!
THE FOOLISHNESS OF FOLLOWING CHRIST
LOVE – in a world where everybody is looking out for number one, putting Jesus first and loving our neighbours will be misunderstood and it will appear foolish.
HOLINESS – in a world without morals and standards, living by God’s rules makes Christians appear to be fuddy-duddies, prudes and kill-joys. Speaking out for purity of marriage, the rights of unborn babies and justice for the poor and oppressed will make us unpopular!
HONESTY and INTEGRITY– are less than easy in a world where success is a god and failure the greatest disgrace. Virtues like honesty and integrity and reliability are often viewed as inconvenient and foolish, but they are at the heart of living a Christ-like life in a Christ-less world.
HUMILITY – not insisting on getting your own way all the time, not having to be right all the time (especially when you know you ARE right). Meekness is not weakness but both are ridiculed equally by a world which so often believes “might is right.”
We shouldn’t expect it to be easy to live a Christian life. If it is easy, if there is never any laughing or mocking, if there are never any insults, maybe we are not being the witnesses we would like to be. Maybe the Christian difference is not being seen in us.
Paul’s experience was different.
1 Corinthians 4 9 For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like men condemned to die in the arena. We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to men. 10 We are fools for Christ.
Following Jesus appears foolish because it demands
SACRIFICE – following the example of the suffering servant King who was servant of all.
FORGIVING OTHERS – forgiving as we ourselves have been forgiven. Without the other person recognising they are wrong or asking for forgiveness. “Unilateral forgiveness.”
GENEROSITY – giving money to the church or Christian work or to help the poor and needy often seems very foolish to the world around. But our time and our talents as well as our treasures all belong to God to use as He commands, however foolish that may appear!
SERVICE – the more time we give to worship and Christian service, the more foolish we will appear to family and friends and colleagues who don’t know God for themselves.
Following Christ will always cost us dearly in the eyes of the world. Love, holiness, honesty, integrity, humility, sacrifice, forgiveness, generosity, service, none of these make any sense if this world is all there is and God does not exist. But following Christ is our witness to the world, even if that makes us appear to be fools for Christ.
Jim Elliott, martyr to the Auca Indians said, “That man is NO FOOL, who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”
Believing the gospel and sharing the gospel and following Jesus in our daily lives makes us appear foolish to the world around. And there is one more aspect of our Christian lives which on the surface is foolish to anybody who doesn’t believe in God.
THE FOOLISHNESS OF PRAYER
As Christians we can so easily forget how crazy it appears, from a purely human point of view, to BELIEVE THAT GOD HEARS OUR PRAYERS.
When people don’t believe God exist, talking to yourself into empty space is a very silly pointless thing to do. Friends and neighbours are usually too polite to tell us just how foolish prayer is – a complete waste of time! Sometimes we as Christians may feel foolish ourselves. “Is God really there?” “Can He hear me?” “Does God really care?” Why doesn’t He answer?” “Why bother praying at all?” That apparent foolishness is one reason why many Christians pray so little. Of course some kinds of prayer make more sense than others. Prayers which change us, or prayers which leads us to take action, seem sensible enough. But there is one kind of prayer which really does seem foolish.
Prayer which EXPECTS GOD TO ANSWER
Prayers where we are asking God to make a difference in the world in ways which could not be explained in any other way than by saying, “God did that”. When we step out in faith, asking God to work miracles. That’s the kind of prayer which God invites us to make and which God promises to answer. That’s the kind of prayer which can change the world! Bold prayer. Specific prayer. Persistent prayer. Praying in faith. Foolish prayer! Perhaps we don’t pray enough of those kinds of prayers because we are afraid of appearing foolish if God doesn’t answer? But that’s the kind of prayer we need to learn to pray! We need to learn to become fools for Christ.
26 Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him. 30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.”
The foolish things, the weak things, the lowly things, the despised things, even the things that are not! These are the things God chooses to use to bring glory to Himself. So often in church we can actually end up relying on the world’s wisdom, instead of relying on the foolishness of the Cross. Relying on our clever arguments, our shrewd planning and organisation instead of relying on Christ who is Himself the power of God and the wisdom of God. Too often we can be worldly wise but spiritually foolish because we are too scared to become “fools for Christ.”
But God calls us to follow Jesus. To follow in the steps of the apostles and countless believers since and to live our lives according to His wisdom. The foolishness of the gospel. The foolishness of following Christ. The foolishness of prayer. There’s the challenge. Are we really prepared to become “fools for Christ”?