I'm a Fool
I’m a fool. My face is painted with words that don’t make sense, with a big red nose of faith, and clothes that shout, “This guy believes in ridiculous stuff.” The people shout at the foolishness of a life lived for Jesus, jeering at a faith that can’t answer all life’s question and that can’t be proved. I am assaulted with the tomatoes of “silly fairy tales”, attempting to turn me away from my foolish faith.
A lot is made of foolishness in the Old Testament, especially in the books of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. The warnings of the teachers are wise, and helpful, and should be listened to, but we must rightly understand the basis of wisdom, or we may find ourselves relying too much on our wisdom and not enough on Godly wisdom.
The opposite of wisdom is foolishness and there is a worldly assumption that you are in the party of fools if you strongly hold to a faith in which you don’t have all the questions answered and the problems solved. It’s one thing to have faith, which already puts you in question of foolishness, but if you are not be able to fully defend what you believe logically you surely are far from wise. Now, this sort of assumption can be used to push us forward in exploring, wrestling with, and understanding our faith better; it can be a good thing, BUT it can also be a very dangerous thing. This danger is something that I see leaned into more often than the positive push criticism gives, and it’s not the challenger’s fault, it’s ours.
Let me explain: to engage in deeper thought of why you believe what you believe is always a good thing. If you are seeking the truth, Jesus promises that you will find it. I believe this as part of my own journey. On the other hand, to believe that you must know all the answers, that you must understand all of why you believe what you do, and that it must make sense to your listeners is not only dangerous for you, it is Biblically incorrect. The danger of this understanding, this fear of sounding foolish, is a product of self-reliance, not Spirit reliance.
In 1 Corinthians Paul writes to a church that is going through some tough stuff, needing clarity on some theological issues and needing to be corrected in their willingness to adapt to their culture. In other words, they wanted to look wise in their culture as well as in their faith. In the very beginning of this letter Paul clarifies, and corrects this thinking, “For Christ didn’t send me to baptize, but to preach the Good News—and not with clever speech, for fear that the cross of Christ would lose its power. The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God. As the Scriptures say, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise and discard the intelligence of the intelligent.” He goes on to reaffirm the idea that we will look foolish to the world. Paul’s very launching point of the book is one where he readjusts our expectations of foolishness. The wisdom of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes promotes wisdom within your character, Paul’s wisdom is that the truth we share and the life we live of love, is one that will sound and look foolish. There is permission to not worry so much about having all the right answers, and relying on a sound argument, or worldly wisdom (although there is sound arguments for faith), but it is actually an invitation to deeper faith and reliance on the Spirit’s power.
So our challenge moving forward is not one of dismissiveness to responsible thought, it is instead a challenge to rely on the Spirit, understanding that we WILL (not we “might”) sound and look foolish. This realization might sound discouraging, but what if we looked at this as an invitation to freedom. How? Well, if you you enter into a conversation with prayer, relying on the Holy Spirit, then you can joyfully speak the words in confidence that the Spirit is speaking through you. If the response is one where you are seen as foolish you don’t have to beat yourself up over it, blame yourself, and think of yourself as stupid for not having all the answers and “convincing” them. You can be assured that the Spirit did speak through you. If you come from the conversation needing to study more then you can see that positive opportunity to learn more, not a self-reprimand for stupidity. The other cool thing about this is when you free yourself to allow the Spirit to speak through you; you may just experience moments where you are sure “I wasn’t saying that.” This is both a thrilling experience and an awesome affirmation of God’s Spirit in you.
Let’s live lives lacking foolishness in terms of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes; slow to speak, gentle, not full of gossip, seeking counsel for decisions, but let’s also abandon our expectations of not being seen as foolish in faith. Instead, put on the face paint, nose, and clothes of Biblical foolishness-- living a life of extravagant love, and being bold in our proclamation of the Good News. Let’s rely on the Holy Spirit, speaking the truth of Christ, that sounds so foolish, but that is the path to salvation.