- if someone strikes you, turn the other cheek.
- if someone forces you to go a mile with them, go two.
- if someone compels you to give up your shirt, offer your jacket as well.
- love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you and bless them.
All of those were in the Sermon on the Mount, and they sounded as foolish then as they do now. Only a foolish, little person would believe and practice such things! Only a fool for Christ would try to live them out! But there’s more!
- give your life away for God’s sake, then you will gain it.
- the greatest among you is the servant of all.
- find the greatest freedom in obedience.
- discover that Christ is to be found in the poor, in “the least of these.”
- trust that your redemption comes from a man who died in a state execution.
I read recently about a fellow who went on a college class trip into New York City. He saw his first Street Preacher working the sidewalks. The Preacher had on a sandwich message board. One side read, “I am a fool for Christ.” The other side said, “Who are you a fool for?” I guess that’s the point. We are always going to spend our time being a fool for somebody. What’s your choice? The gospel calls us to be “Fools for Christ.” We could try it out. But what would it be like?
We could fight against all our Midwestern Reasonableness and do something foolish for Christ. We could try to:
- forgive someone who doesn’t even ask for forgiveness.
- be kind to someone who doesn’t really deserve it.
- stop being just nice and tolerant and start being deeply compassionate.
- love our enemy, instead of fighting fire with fire.
- resolve to let someone “begin again” in our affections, in spite of all the ways they have disappointed or betrayed us.
- give to someone who cannot repay us.
- pray for someone’s healing or their deeper spiritual conversion to God and neighbor, against all the odds that we can see.
- give thanks for the foolishness of the little man, Jesus.
On the public radio program, “Speaking of Faith,” Krista Tippett interviewed the FBI whistle-blower from Minneapolis, Colleen Rowley. Now, if there was ever a foolish person, Colleen Rowley was one. There she was with a perfectly safe and stable career with the FBI, and she chose to jeopardize all of that by challenging her bosses about their performance in analyzing clues that came to them before the 9/11 terrorism incident. In fact, Rowley voluntarily took a cut in grade and pay because her own colleagues refused to work with her. Colleen talked about what motivated her to challenge the quality of the work done by the FBI, in spite of the personal risks she was taking. She concluded her remarks by referring to a statement that has become important to her. It is based on the “Ten Paradoxical Commandments,” written by Kent Keith. It’s a strangely foolish statement, yet it seems to capture the attitude we need to have if we are to even begin to be the fools for Christ that Paul imagined in 1 Corinthians. There are several versions of it, but here is one for you to consider:
The Paradoxical Commandments
- People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.
Love them anyway.
- If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Do good anyway.
- If you are successful, you win false friends and true enemies.
- The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.
- Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.
- The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds.
Think big anyway.
- People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs.
Fight for a few underdogs anyway.
- What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
- People really need help but may attack you if you do help them.
Help people anyway.
- Give the world the best you have and you'll get kicked in the teeth.
Give the world the best you have anyway.
Foolish, foolish advice, but it is the wisdom of God. It is the way of the little man whom we often call “Lord and Savior.”