Fools For Christ
Fr Luke Veronis
Who wants to be considered a fool? Anyone? Foolishness is not a virtue that we admire, or strive to attain, and yet, today as we celebrate the Holy Apostles, the first followers of Jesus Christ, and a day after we honored the Apostles Peter and Paul, the foremost leaders of the Apostles, we hear in St. Paul’s Epistle about the “foolishness” of the first Christians.
St. Paul is writing to the first Christians in Corinth, and in a bit of a sarcastic manner he states, “I think that God has displayed us, the apostles, last, as men condemned to death; for we have been made a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men. We are fools for Christ’s sake.”
Fools for Christ’s sake! That sounds like an oxymoron. How can one who follows Christ be a fool?!?
Holy Scriptures clearly criticizes the foolishness of the world. Remember the story of the rich man who wanted to retire early and just sit back and enjoy his wealth? He would be considered a success in worldly standards, yet Jesus condemned his selfish and egocentric life by saying, “You fool, tonight your soul will be required of you; then for who will your riches be?” Christ condemns the foolishness of greed, the foolishness of focusing mainly on this earthly and temporary life, the foolishness of allowing our egocentric desires and tendencies to guide us. Jesus sharply critiques the foolishness of the world and all its superficial, temporary focus.
So, some foolishness is to be avoided. Yet today, we hear about the holy apostles proudly accepting the role as “fools for Christ.” In today’s epistle reading, Saint Paul describes “holy foolishness” in this way: “We are fools for Christ’s sake… we are weak… we are dishonored. To this present hour we both hunger and thirst, and we are poorly clothed, and beaten and homeless. We labor, working with our own hands. Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we endure; being slandered, we speak kindly. We have become like the rubbish of the world, the offscouring of all things... imitate me” (1 Cor 4:9-13)
The Apostle Paul is describing all that he and the other apostles suffered as they try to preach the Good News of Jesus Christ throughout the world. It’s surely not easy. They’ve left the comfort of their homes and their families, and are rejected in many places they go, yet they continue. They are persecuted, threatened, beaten. Some have died for the faith. Even when they are despised by others, they simply strive to love their enemies, forgive those who wish them harm, and kindly treat others as they want to be treated.
Their actions seem like foolishness to many? Why endure the suffering, the struggles, the challenges? Why risk their lives? For what?
In the second letter St. Paul wrote to the Christians in Corinth, he goes on to describe the life of the apostles, “We are hard pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down but not destroyed, always carrying in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus almost may be manifested in our body… For we do not lose heart. Even though our outward person is perishing, yet the inward person is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (2 Cor 4:7-11, 16-17)
Their action and their lives isn’t foolishness. In fact, their lives point to something greater than what can be seen. Yes, they suffer, but their suffering isn’t in vain. They willingly sacrifice their lives in order that others may reap the benefits of salvation. Their love is so great for Christ and the world, that they will do anything to help others discover the treasure of eternal faith.
Saint Paul goes on, “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… For Jews request a sign and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness… But the foolishness of God is wiser than men and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” (1 Corinthians 1:18, 22, 25)
I’m afraid that many of us who call ourselves Christians don’t understand this foolishness of Christ. We have given in to a false and heretical form of Christianity – a Christianity that is a comfortable, easy, and that doesn’t really demand much: Go to church once in a while, follow most of the commandments, try to be a “good” person, wear a cross and have a few icons, maybe even go to Project Mexico or some OCMC mission trip or help out at some local outreach or charity so that we feel good about ourselves.
In this form of comfortable Christianity, however, we won’t allow Christ to fundamentally interfere with our lives, nor to radically transform our lives into Christ’s likeness. We place the American Dream above the Christian Gospel. The pursuit of prosperity becomes a guiding force in our lives. We want to be comfortable, or even rich, to be politically correct, and not to rock the boat of public opinion. In other words, we follow the wide and easy path, that Christ warns leads to destruction, NOT the narrow and difficult path that leads to true, meaningful and eternal life!
A fool for Christ is one who truly tries to live their life according to the Gospel teachings, one who loves Jesus Christ above all else and who sincerely strives to live by His teachings:
- one who lives a life of sacrificial agape love towards all people, including our enemies and those who seem so different from us;
- one who forgives others unconditionally, even up to 70x7 times;
- one who lives in humble self-knowledge, knowing that all good comes only from God and we are but pencils, imperfect instruments in God’s hands;
- one who lives in constant repentance, daily and constantly turning back towards God and away from our sinful desires.
A fool for Christ understands that life isn’t about becoming comfortable, nor about becoming rich or famous or living a life of ease. A fool for Christ says, “Here I am Lord. Do with me whatever you want. Make me an instrument in Your hands. Allow me to glorify Your name in whatever means you see fit. I am yours first and foremost, above all else!
Today as we celebrate and remember the 12 Apostles, and as we highlighted the two great Apostles Peter and Paul yesterday, let us remember how they were truly “fools for Christ” who were filled with the wisdom of God!!! And may we imitate their divine foolishness and wisdom instead of blindly following the empty foolishness and wisdom of the world!