Earlier this summer, our family made a pilgrimage to the ultimate summer vacation destination, Disneyland. As we navigated the crowds, I noticed a common trait among our fellow mouse-eared tourists. With the exception of a few overstimulated toddlers and stressed-out parents, everyone around us was smiling and laughing. The strangers...
April 1 exploits them.
The book of Proverbs warns against them.
The Apostle Paul says to become one—
But how exactly do we become fools for Christ?
I must confess that, while it can be fun with the right people, April Fool’s Day has never been my favorite holiday. It’s hard for me to find pleasure in making someone feel foolish, and I’ve never particularly enjoyed feeling stupid, myself.
Being labeled a fool doesn’t exactly cause the heart to erupt with warm fuzzies, does it? In fact, it typically causes the heart to pound with angry, defensive feelings that can swell into resentment, bitterness, and a critical spirit. There’s a reason Scripture, particularly the book of Proverbs, warns so strongly against forsaking wisdom and falling into foolishness.
But how do we reconcile what Solomon tells us in Proverbs with the Apostle Paul’s call for us to become fools for Christ? And how do we process that one of our chief callings as believers in Jesus is to become a fool?
Though we shudder at the idea of being called a fool, in 1 Corinthians, we find Paul wearing the title as a badge of honor. Perhaps, as we approach April Fool’s Day, the iconic day of hoaxes and fools, we should consider why.
Let Us Become Fools
Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. (1 Corinthians 3:18)
The Bible does not contradict itself. Therefore, in this case, we know that being a fool does not equal abandoning wisdom or reason (which is Solomon’s argument against foolishness in Proverbs)—it means embracing what is truly wise and noble, and then living and dying for it (1:26-31).
Here, Paul is telling the Corinthians, and all who read this epistle, to heedlessly become fools for Christ. No excuses, no compromises, no turning back. If Jesus calls us to come and die, we should do so with reckless abandon, for he who calls us is faithful and sets the standard for how we are to clothe ourselves in dignity and honor, despite how this may appear to others.
Jesus looked foolish. Even his disciples didn’t understand his methods or ways, and people thought him weak and passive even though he was the personification of wisdom and strength.
And for every believer, God is rewiring our hearts and minds to be conformed to the image of our nail-scarred King who was willing to become a fool in the darkness of death to give us understanding in the light of his glorious life.
When the Cross Is Folly
For 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. (1 Corinthians 1:18)
Why is the way of the cross considered foolishness for those who are perishing?
- It’s foolish to think rebels could be reconciled.
- It’s foolish to think true strength is found in weakness.
- It’s foolish to think freedom is rooted in restraint.
- It’s foolish to think a King could love a discarded peasant.
- It’s foolish to think death could be reversed.
- It’s foolish to think you could be fully known and fully loved.
- It’s foolish to think another could pay your debt and remove your chains.
But this is the upside-down world the gospel offers.
This world, like the children’s game of 3D Magic Eye, must be viewed through a special lens. To see it, you must first receive new eyes. Because it can only be viewed with eyes of faith, our convictions and actions are sometimes misinterpreted by those who cannot spiritually see.
People don’t understand this new kingdom into which we’ve been placed. It seems foolish to those on the outside (and sometimes those on the inside) to see someone giving blessing when they are cursed, forgiveness when they are abused, and grace when they are hurt.
[Tweet “Scripture tells us true foolishness is found in gaining the whole world but losing your soul.”]
It seems foolish to place the interest of others above our own, to lay down our lives for our enemies, and to submit to God and others when we’re wired for rebellion.
It seems foolish to lead our hearts when the world tells us to follow them, to sacrifice our income when the world says to hoard it, and to trust what we cannot see when the world says to walk by sight.
But this is the glory of the gospel, the light of salvation that glistens and glimmers with hope in a world sitting in darkness.
We have the light of Jesus. What are we doing about it?
Embracing Foolishness for Christ
For the advancement of the mission Jesus left us with, we are to embrace another upside-down principle of this kingdom of light: We become poor so others become rich.
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich. (2 Corinthians 8:9, emphasis added)
… as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love; by truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; through honor and dishonor, through slander and praise. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything. (6:3-10, emphasis added)
Paul understood this upside-down world. He understood that God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, and what is weak, low, and despised to shame the strong, haughty, and applauded, so the only cause for boasting would be in Christ (1 Corinthians 1:27-29).
An outsider doesn’t comprehend these foreign ideas. How can one find riches in poverty? How can one find glory in humiliation? How can one find beauty in a bloody cross?
It’s folly to those who are perishing, but life to those who have died to their sins and found resurrection in Christ’s victory (1 Corinthians 1:18-24).
Make a Fool of Yourself
Scripture tells us true foolishness is found in gaining the whole world but losing your soul (Luke 9:23-25). May our lives, therefore, be spent extending the grace-filled gospel we’ve received in order to rescue from the flames those blinded by the god of this world (2 Corinthians 4:3-4; Jude 23).
Pour yourself out for the redemption of others. Trust God in big ways. Live a life recklessly abandoned to God.
Make a fool of yourself.
It’s the wisest thing you can do.
He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose. (Jim Elliot)