Are you feeling battle-weary in the face of a hostile world? Maybe you’ve spent years in the trenches, engaged in the culture wars, standing for truth in the public square—and it feels like the opposition only grows.
Then hear the words of 1 Corinthians 1:27. “But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.”
This is so counter-intuitive that it sounds almost ridiculous to our modern ears. God chose the foolish things?
Maybe a contemporary illustration will help. Over the last few years, billions of people have avoided the mainstream hotel industry to take advantage of AirBNB. They’ve found cheap accommodation in other people’s homes and even made money from their own property.
Uber is another such phenomenon, turning regular cars into taxis, to the advantage of passengers and upstart drivers alike. Both of these ‘disrupter’ companies, as they’ve been called—and now dozens of rivals—have caused havoc to conventional markets.
And here’s the thing: when Uber and AirBNB were struggling to get off the ground, the corporate world probably saw them as foolish—if they even noticed. But fast forward a decade, and they’ve sent corporations broke and reshaped entire industries from the ground up.
And this is the kind of point that God is making in 1 Corinthians 1:18-31. You and I, as followers of Jesus, are disrupters. If this passage means anything, it must mean this: A foolish message shared by foolish people is exactly how God has chosen to save the world.
A Foolish Message | v18-25
The Gospel is a foolish message. We’ve made the Cross a very tame, middle-class, domesticated symbol. We’ve forgotten that it was a symbol of shame and slaughter in the first century.
Imagine a small, golden electric chair dangling from a necklace. Or an atom bomb depicted in a church’s stained-glass windows. Or a noose hung high above a sanctuary altar.
Are you shocked by these suggestions? If so, then you can empathise just a bit more with those who don’t believe the gospel. Many scoff at the thought that a crucified Saviour is the hope of the world. The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing (v18).
The reason so many see the Gospel as foolish is because it confronts so many idols in our culture. In Paul’s day, the Jews wanted power. They were waiting for a Messiah or a leader who would liberate them from the Roman Empire. They weren’t expecting a crucified Messiah: to them, that was weak, and it made no sense.
And likewise, the Greeks wanted wisdom. They were looking for the world’s greatest orator or philosopher—someone to rival Plato or Aristotle. They weren’t interested in a shabby carpenter from a backwater province of the empire.
So what does God do? Does He give the Jews and the Greeks what they want? No, He decides to offend everyone. He gives the world Jesus. God in the flesh, hanging on a cross.
Jews seek signs. Greeks seek wisdom. In our day, millennials seek image. The middle class seeks comfort. Religious people seek rules. Irreligious people seek autonomy. But we preach Christ, and him crucified, Paul says (v23).
It’s a message to make every culture stumble. With the Gospel—with this one simple message—God confronts every sub-culture’s idol. All of our false gods. All of our false salvations.
The Gospel declares that the only thing we can offer God is our brokenness. Only then—only when we confess our sins and our weaknesses and our inabilities and our need for Jesus—can we be saved (v21). This is why the Gospel seems so foolish to so many.
Foolish Messengers | v26-31
Not only do we bear a foolish message—we ourselves are also foolish messengers. This is what Paul means when he says, “Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth.” (v26).
Paul uses the word ‘foolish’ five times in eight verses. In the Greek, that word is moros, from which we get the word moron. It’s not much of a stretch to suggest that basically, Paul is calling us morons.
Yes, it’s encouraging when rich and powerful Christians use their platform for Jesus. But we shouldn’t hang our hopes on this. Fame, prestige and political power have never mixed particularly well with the church. And that’s never been God’s plan to save the world anyway.
In his mission to bring redemption to this planet, God’s plan is to use really ordinary, average people. Fools. Morons. Us.
It’s confronting to realise that the average Christian today is extremely poor, part of an oppressed minority group, living somewhere in a rural or outer urban city in Africa or Asia. They’re the world’s forgotten people.
This might sound kind of gloomy, but only if we’re thinking in a worldly way. In fact, “God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are.” (v27-28).
In other words, with God, you don’t have to be strong or powerful or religious or rich or intelligent or spiritual or anything. You just have to be willing. God uses the little people. God is with the underdog.
From the very beginning, the church has been most effective when it has been a prophetic voice on the margins of society. This is where we thrive. This is where we’re most at home.
That’s where Jesus was in his day. It’s where the early church was, when Paul wrote this letter to the Corinthians. It’s where we believers in the West find ourselves today.
A foolish message. Foolish messengers.
If sometimes you’re embarrassed by the Christian message, that’s a good thing. Society around us elevates wisdom, intelligence, and brilliant philosophies. But God has chosen the foolish message of the cross to save the world.
If sometimes you feel like a fool as a Christian, get used to that. It’s a good thing. It should feel normal. The world elevates people with power and strength and noble birth. But God has chosen to use foolish messengers like you and me.