Would it be ruining it if I mentioned that it’s April Fools Day tomorrow? It would? Sorry.
And would it surprise you if I pointed out that the Bible calls its own hero, Jesus, a fool, a weakling even? By the world’s standards, anyway.
The reference is in 1 Corinthians and, like any piece of startlingly inimitable literature, the passage (verses 18-31) unfolds new meaning and beauty with each reading.
“God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things – the things that are not – to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.” (verses 27-29)
What is foolish and wise by our standards is not foolish and wise by God’s. I could imagine the writer Paul punctuating the air by his ears with finger quotes if he had been asked to voice his sentiments.
So called “foolishness”. So called “wisdom”.
Jesus – a human – vulnerable to sin and decay like the rest of us, was sent to open up communication with his father, God.
Jesus – a teacher – gave lessons completely at odds with the culture of the day.
Jesus – a man – never, not once, gave in to temptation.
Jesus – a friend – extended kindness even when he knew the same people would betray him.
He had all the trappings of a fool and yet his life inexplicably altered history. Our society, the way we interact and build community, has in some way been influenced by the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.
People do “foolish” things in his name – they forgive the man who murdered their child, they pour their life savings into funding an aid project, they volunteer at a homeless shelter, they move to faraway and dangerous places to speak hope and love into people’s lives.
While the world preaches that the “wise” thing to do is amass wealth, look after Number One and pursue happiness, Jesus endorses the “foolish” path of self-sacrifice, compassion and humility.
Looking back over that passage in 1 Corinthians, verse 18 says this: “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.”
Us so-called God-botherers are frequently labeled with words connected to insanity. Yet, to me, it is utter foolishness that our lives hold no value, no purpose beyond the speck of time we inhabit. It’s foolishness that all the astounding complexity of creation came from nothing, a random collision of atoms. It’s foolishness to refuse to acknowledge that something bigger is at work, evidenced in the subtle promptings of our soul and the whispers of nature.
So, who’s the fool? I’d say it’s all a matter of perspective – worldly or eternal.
Easter falls in April this year. As you’re coming to the realisation that you’ve fallen for yet another April Fools Day gag, consider another (finger quotes) fool, who gave his life for you.
First published in The Examiner Newspaper for Keeping the Faith column on Monday March 31, 2014.