“We are fools for Christ, but you are so wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are honored, we are dishonoured!”
~1 Corinthians 4:10 (NIV).
As you offer the hand to the bloodied person on the floor, they take it, but in so doing they grab a book from the floor and wallop you in your face! What a reward for extending such undeserved favour; you’d certainly question ‘helping’ again so instinctively.
Imagine for a moment the faithful Paul—taking blow upon blow dealing with the Corinthian church. Here Paul is constructing a reasoned argument to counter the sectionalised Corinthian pride that has anchored these spiritual schismatics ahead of Paul—well, at least in their own minds.
But, then, so unexpectedly, Paul flips the approach to this emerging church in Corinth, using this very context to preach Christ and him crucified, proving again, all things work for God. He enters into a beautifully picturesque tirade on what being an apostle and true believer of Jesus is all about.
To live is to die—to self. To take this Christ-life and spend it to the maximum is to totally lose it—in love with others. This, against our human pride, is difficult to achieve, let alone sustain. And this is the very reason we need God.
He writes not to shame them, but to warn them (1 Corinthians 4:14); “fear God,” is what he’s saying. Even though Paul was being put down by some sections or cliques of the church there in Corinth, he sought to set the story straight and “contend for the faith” (Jude 3) as he’d been called to live and die for.
So what’s the personal application here for us?
How are we treating our leaders? We must honour them. Beyond that, we’re to honour everyone with the dignity that we’re all loved by God. We all deserve an awesome respect that speaks to this God-loved humanity we share, no matter the person. When we fix in our minds that Christ came to die for the ungodly to make them godly through his blood and broken body on the cross, the last thing he had in mind was for people to take faith and argue spitefully about it.
Our arguments don’t make sense if they reduce the love. They miss the point. This is what I believe Paul was talking about in 1 Corinthians 13; remove love and there is nothing else, even though practically we have all other things. This type of argument will always prove to be a moot point. No one’s listening to one another. Truth without grace divides and dilutes meaning.
Being a fool for Christ and representing his broader wisdom (outlined in 1 Corinthians 1:18 – 2:16) means we’re living “the mind of Christ.” We have his heavenly objectives entrenched at heart. We no longer need to win or be right or be successful according to the world’s definition of those things.
We’re to follow Jesus.
That is to be prepared to be a fool for him against the prevailing wisdom of the world; to be deliberately weak, and therefore gain our strength from him; we’re also to deflect the honour coming to us so that he might gain glory—i.e. not basking in ‘our’ glory, but simply and humbly walking with our God (Micah 6:8).
© 2010 S. J. Wickham.