Foolishness

It is written: ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent’.

For consider, what have the philosopher, the writer and the critic of this world to show for all their wisdom? Has not God made the wisdom of this world look foolish? for it was after the world in its wisdom failed to know God, that he in his wisdom chose to save all who would believe by the “simple-mindedness” of the Gospel message. For the Jews ask for miraculous proofs and the Greeks an intellectual panacea, but all we preach is Christ crucified—a stumbling block to the Jews and sheer nonsense to the Gentiles, but for those who are called, whether Jews or Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. And this is really only natural, for God’s foolishness” is wiser than men, and his “weakness” is stronger than men.

1 Corinthians 1:19-25, JB Phillips

It was summer of 1995 when my life was turned completely upside down by a man who preached about a relationship with Jesus Christ and invited us to take steps to begin our own relationship with God by walking down with thousands of others to pray a simple prayer to ask God for forgiveness and to express our own desire to start a relationship with Him. It was simple, effective - and delivered by a man who never finished college.

What followed was a hunger for more knowledge.

I started attending Bible Studies at the local churches on a daily basis, sometimes even twice in a day. I joined a local college ministry. I started attending chapels at Biola University - and then I decided that I needed to attend there so I could further my Bible knowledge. I sat at lunch with other students to debate the theological implications of a Pre-Tribulation eschatology.

I longed to take the knowledge that I was soaking in like a sponge and teach it, and I began dreaming of becoming a pastor. I looked to the likes of John MacArthur, Mark Driscoll, and Chuck Smith as examples of how I would impart the incredible theological truths that I was learning.

But that was before. Before that knowledge kept me from embracing the faith of other people who weren’t as “wise” as me. I worked hard to have the answers down, and used it at times to inform people as to why their style of worship and connecting with God was “wrong.” Oh, how that haunts me to this day.

Now, as someone on the outside, it doesn’t matter that I might have all of the answers.

And while sure, I still work on gaining knowledge, my outlook on faith has evolved quite a bit. It all started when I, just over one year into my life as Ellie, decided to walk back into church after spending over ten years away. And while I never expected God to meet me again and in the way that He did, I have to say that in one night, everything that I thought I knew went out the window. That night, the only thing that mattered was that God simply met with me there.

“Ellie.”
“Yes? God…. is that you?”
“Yes. I was wondering how long it was going to take you to come back.”
“You know… it hurt.”
“I know. But I never left you.”
“I know. I never really stopped believing, you know.”
“I know, Ellie. And I’m glad you’re here today.”
“You know, God - everything within me said I shouldn’t be here tonight.”
“I’m aware of that. And I’m glad you stepped through that to meet me here.”
“Why was it so hard?”
“You see, Ellie - the simple fact is that I love you. I want you to find me in the moment. I want you to experience life in community. What holds you back, though - is that you think you know so much about me. About the type of people that can come to me. All of that knowledge only served to help build barriers, telling you who is acceptable and able to approach me.”
“So… when I came here tonight….”
“Yes. You felt like you couldn’t, because you are exactly the type of person your knowledge says is unworthy of coming to me.”
“Oh.”
“And because of that, you were afraid, weren’t you?”
“Yeah.”
“I met with you here because you needed to know that the only thing that matters is that you reach out. Just like your own kids - when they reach out to you, no matter what they’ve done, you’ll be there, right?”
“Uh huh”
“You’re my kid. Stop over-complicating it.”
“But how do I…?”
“You’ll find a way. Listen to the song that the band is playing right now.”

I’m no longer a slave to fear; I am a child of God.
I’m no longer a slave to fear; I am a child of God.

The tears began to roll down my face.
“Ellie, do you believe that?”
“I’m trying to.”
“Then that’s a good first step.”

It was a few weeks later when I heard a Rabbi preach about the idea of shalom. Of how God, throughout Scripture, is on a constant quest to restore shalom - wholeness - to our relationship with God and our relationship with each other. Every story, she explained, is an example of how God is working towards that.

But could it really be that simple?

What if it is? God gave us ten simple commandments that, when boiled down, call us to two things: love God and love each other. And yet we, in our humanity, can’t live with the simplicity of that, so we start putting parameters around those laws. And suddenly, ten commandments become volumes of works that parse out each word and letter. Each interpretation builds and builds, giving us a “blueprint” of what we believe God wants - and, for some reason, telling us who God rejects. The people in the Old Testament did it. And now history repeats itself, with churches telling people like me that we are an abomination. That God could never love me.

Cory Marquez, one of the pastors of New Abbey Church in Pasadena, California often says “Jesus didn’t come down to this earth to die on a cross so that God would change His mind about us. Jesus came to this earth so that we would change our minds about God.”

How far have we come? How much has my knowledge and schooling brought me? It only reinforced my own biases that justified my ability to say “these people can come in, but these people are too different. I question their faith. I question their salvation.”

Foolishness.

People told me that the simplicity of the Gospel in and of itself was foolish. That there HAD to be more than that. What if there isn’t? What if, at the end of the day, God is calling us to a place where He simply wants to say “I love you”?

We’re about to enter into a week where we remember the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. A moment in time that changed everything. We’ve heard the stories before. I used to hate Easter services because it felt like it was the “same story over and over.” I wanted to get back into deep theology lessons and Bible studies. But perhaps the point isn’t that. Perhaps the point is that we, in the familiarity of the stories, find the thread that has brought us to this point - where God simply wants to meet with each and every one of His creation - no matter what race, gender identity, sexual identity, or anything else - to say, “Look. Think about this. Reflect on this. And know that I love you. Now spread that news to the world. Not the news you think you know. But the simple truth. Because the truth shall set you free.”

The best things in life are the simple things - womans feet on grass with wildflowers

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