I was in my early twenties before I had a go at abseiling. Honestly, up till then, it seemed like utter foolishness. And on the first occasion as I straddled the top of the rock-face and my ‘motivator’ encouraged me to lean back and push off, I knew it was utter foolishness. However, with fellow youth pastors looking on, most providing encouragement while one or two uttered disparaging words, I did exactly what I was told, even though it seemed counterintuitive to do so – and it worked. Before I realised what was happening, I was into a rhythm and I had descended with a sense of exhilaration. I enjoyed many years of abseiling after that. Doing what seemed to be foolish actually was wise in the circumstances and I got to enjoy the freedom of resting in the harness and pushing off into nothing. Its similar with what Paul describes in our reading today. In fact, Paul literally writes “don’t be fooled (the word means deluded) … you need to become a fool in order to become wise” (vs 18). Paul is calling the believers in Corinth to recognise that the wisdom of the world requires them to trust in themselves and the wisdom of others rather than trusting in the ‘apparent’ foolishness displayed in the events of the cross.
What Paul is emphasising is that the agenda for believers as we live as disciples of Jesus, ought to be imitating Christ; and the Cross of Christ is central to this. We ought to be less interested in the praise of others, less inspired by the wisdom of natural human ability and more passionate about letting Christ guide our thoughts and attitudes and therefore our everyday actions. One person who has written on this passage of scripture has commented “To be foolish in the Corinthian society was tantamount to social suicide” – that is, giving up on what others around us say is important will often mean others will think less of us. That makes it a real challenge for each of us; how are you going in leaning back and pushing off? If you recognise that it is difficult to stay true to the message of the Cross of Christ, think today what it means for you to respond to the words of Paul – “Don’t be fooled, become a fool, in order to be wise”