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Christian Maturity: Playing the Fool

In his book, “Fool’s Talk: The Art of Christian Persuasion”, author and public intellectual Os Guinness outlines the four ways the Bible describes a fool. In the first case a fool is someone who is objectively a fool. They are a fool because God calls them so. Proverbs as does Jesus in the gospel describe many of the actions of a fool. They do not listen to God or take heed of God’s warnings. In the second case, is someone who is not a fool, but is willing to look like one for the sake of identifying with Christ. Jesus himself was treated as a fool. The third case is what Guinness calls the “fool maker”. This person is willing to become a fool in order to make those in positions of power and influence see the foolishness of their actions.

The last two cases are what Christians are to follow. In the second case, Christians are called to bear the scorn and mockery of being a follower of Christ. If people treated Christ in this way, how much more should people who follow him. In the third case, we are called to point out the foolishness of the world from our own position of weakness.

Guinness is not advocating (as some erroneously think) that to be a Christian we must dismiss our intellect. Nor does it mean that we do not seek or use positions of influence. But what it does mean is that we are not to be ensnared by the same trappings and values of the culture and society around us. The first thing we must admit is that to be a follower of Christ we will look foolish. Imagine that we are living in a world of rebels to the king. If we decide to lay down our arms and stop resisting the king, the rebels around us will no longer understand us and to some it may feel like we have gone mad. As Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 1:18-25:

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. For it is written,“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. (ESV)

In other words, one of the basic principles that we must understand is that many aspects of Christian maturity is going to look foolish to the world. In Paul’s time, many Jews could not believe Jesus was God and demanded signs from Jesus to prove his claims. Greeks couldn’t accept the gospel because it didn’t satisfy their philosophical and cultural assumptions. How could God be killed on a Roman cross? How could the Messiah be someone we could see and touch?

One of the questions any who seek Christian maturity is are you willing to play the part of the fool? Indeed we must be willing to look foolish by the world in order to be right before God. There have been and are people throughout the history of the church who have sought to make a name for themselves in Christian circles by trying to look mature. There is a strong temptation of power and influence. Christ challenges us to take up our cross, to look the fool to a foolish world.