March 2, 2018—1 Corinthians 1:18-25
This reading, with its reference to foolishness, will—spoiler alert!—make an appearance in Easter Sunday worship, which this year takes place on April Fool's Day.
The final verse of this reading goes like this: "For God's foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God's weakness is stronger than human strength."
Charles Campbell makes a connection between Christian ideas of foolishness and nonviolent resistance. He points out that the central act of Protestant life in a sense is reading scripture and preaching about it. This is the most powerful thing we do?
We don't persuade people with political savvy or coercion, might or threat. We don't even technically make promises that by being an active Christian you'll get bonus points with God—instead we say that God's love is a gift you simply have to receive!
This is utter foolishness to much of the world, that we would use non-threatening, peaceful words to rally the troops and to seek to influence people. Our way looks pretty weak in comparison to the influence of the military might that is brandished by ISIS, North Korea, Russia, and even (and perhaps more than anyone else) by the United States.
And yet the ways of the Word, of Jesus's words, have inspired Gandhi and black churches of the mid-20th century south to live by the power of the Word instead of the sword, and by relying on the Word, they toppled the British Empire and the Jim Crow laws (kind of).
Gandhi and the Civil Rights movement were inspired to turn the other cheek, to go the second mile, acts that Campbell compares to the performance of a court jester, who makes the power of might look ridiculous in the face of nonviolent resistance.
Today we can see some parallels between previous nonviolent movements and the students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School who are confronting the epidemic of school shootings not with guns of their own but with their own sermons of grief and hope. They seem to be preaching that escalating the presence of guns may not make our schools stronger but mostly more fearful.
God who hangs up the bow (Gen. 9), whose "weakness is stronger than human strength" (1 Cor. 1:25), and who dies on a cross rather than escalate violence on earth: this God is foolish in undying love to us. But as we discover on Easter, if we put our faith in human strength over our foolish God, then the joke's on us.
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