We are fools for Christ sake but you are wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are distinguished, we are dishonored! — 1 Corinthians 4:10 NKJV
April Fools' Day, the day to prank just about anybody you can think of. By prank I don't mean doing something mean or hurtful to somebody, but rather some simple joke like putting a fake spider in their water glass or something similar. It's like a kid limping into the room, nearly in tears, saying, "Mommy, I got hurt!" and then, when mommy goes all sympathetic and tries to help, the child jumps up and says "April Fools!" Sometimes you wonder.
The Bible uses the word "fool" a number of times, 66 in the KJV alone. "Fool" in the Jewish tradition usually meant stupid, vile, or wicked. From the Greek, it added unbelieving, unwise, egotistical, rash, or mindless. Today's definition adds someone acting unwisely or imprudently, a silly person, or any of a number of synonyms, many of which have connotations of someone who with mental challenges, pejoratives that really have no place in a world that we are trying to make into the Kingdom of God on earth.
What I think Paul is talking about is going against the culture of the time, any time. It's in the impracticality, a countercultural move, even something that can be very dangerous, especially in the days when after Jesus's death and resurrection, where persecution of Christians was starting to be a fact of life. They were considered fools because they didn't stick with the traditional Jewish teachings and worship, even though many still went to worship at the synagogues and some even did the offerings at the temple until it was burned in 70 A.D. Little by little much of the Jewish influence was weaned out of Christianity or, as they called it, the Way, and they appeared more foolish than ever. It was foolishness to actually refused to worship Caesar is a God, no matter which religion the person was, and especially with armed soldiers standing right there and your very words and actions were most probably condemning you to death. That was foolishness. Those who felt that they were wise bent the knee to Caesar but then, in the back rooms of their homes and those of their friends and neighbors, they participated in Christian worship. Their foolishness was not trusting in God and living honestly, if apparently foolishly.
Today we look at foolishness as not following the status quo, full. Foolishness is standing with people at Standing Rock in their attempt to protect the water. It could have cost every one of them their lives, but yet they were fools for Christ, or the native peoples, or perhaps for the water itself that was precious to not only our First Nation people but to all of those who depend on that stretch of water to provide them with clean drinking water. Foolishness is standing for an organization that most people connect with abortion, but which in reality does far more for reproductive health, not just for women but also for men who might not be able to afford care or treatment or diagnosis without the help of that organization. It is considered foolishness for African-Americans to follow in the path of Martin Luther King Jr. and to use what he had taught them to protest the killing of innocent people just because of their skin color or the possibility that they might be bent on doing some kind of mischief.
The appearance of being foolish is a stigma nobody really wants to have to wear. Being foolish is really a form of insult, as if a person did not have the wit or the intelligence or the savvy to be like everyone else around them and do things the "normal" way. Being a musician is foolish, because who wants to hear a symphony when you can go down to the nearest street corner and be almost drowned in sound by boom boxes, amplified guitars and overpowering drum sets. It's foolish to fight for school lunch programs for children and Meals on Wheels for elders who are unable to get to the store or perhaps cook for themselves. Children can't learn as well when they're hungry, and elders are often ignored because they are old, they don't have a value in terms of work, or they may be too ill or infirm to make much of a contribution to the general welfare. There are so many ways to be foolish now.
Perhaps it's time for us to reclaim the foolishness and to admit that we are foolish at times. Mostly it's a negative. Jesus encouraged us to be foolish, not by pranking others or being impractical, although he did call the religious hierarchy names that corresponded with foolish or fool because of their stubbornness and spiritual blindness. Where Jesus encouraged us to be foolish is to not care what the neighbors think, but rather to do what is right and what is needed to make this kingdom of God come alive now and not just at some future point in time.
It's time to be as foolish as possible in the name of Christ. It's easy enough for me to look foolish, but what I really need to be as Christlike as possible. Maybe I can't walk from place to place like an itinerant to preacher like Jesus did, but I can work to make others more aware of the value of being foolish, being countercultural, being unlike those around us who only care for the material or what benefits them and the heck with everyone else.
This week, go thou and be foolish for Christ sake. Do what thou canst for others and glorify God for the wisdom of that foolishness. God bless.
Originally published at Speaking to the Soul on Episcopal Café Saturday, April 1, 2017.