Our Foolish Faith


tiananmenPaul tells us in this week’s Lectionary reading from 1 Corinthians that “the message of the Cross is foolishness to those who are perishing.…” And, that “God made foolish the wisdom of the world.”

In other words, foolishness (at least in one’s faith) is a good thing. But, can we have too much of a good thing? Are there boundaries beyond which our foolishness should not go?

In my years of involvement with more conservative Christian organizations, I sometimes saw this scripture used to support the idea that no matter how foolish an idea (or goal) was, as long as we had faith, it was God’s will to pursue it. Faith came first: identifying and discussing possible roadblocks, or raising concerns about the “foolish” plan (such as it was), were seen as a hallmark of insufficient faith; as proof that the person raising the concerns was not a “mature” Christian. “Foolishness” in such a context meant “you can’t talk about the negatives – being faithful means you only focus on the goal – and God will provide.”

Sadly, such efforts rarely succeeded, and even when they seemed to succeed, often did more harm than good. Lack of forethought & planning; a blindness to the issues (and to the consequences of ones’ actions) almost always doomed the effort. Seeming to be foolish in the eyes of others is not the same as acting foolishly oneself.

So, when we avoid discussing the negatives and challenges that face us, are we really acting in faith? There’s a big difference between faith that seems foolish to outsiders, and faith that is the result of our own wishful thinking.

There’s a clear way to distinguish between the two: Paul never discouraged discussion on faith issues. He certainly took those to task who were acting foolishly (his confrontation with Peter in Acts and his comments to various groups of believers through his Epistles come to mind). But, he never told folks to just shut up and follow his lead.

The same can be found in the Gospels: Jesus never discouraged questioning one’s faith. What he did (very frequently) was to challenge those who sought to stop all debate or any push for change by declaring their current position to be the only right (read: God-sanctioned) one.

From these examples of scripture, it is clear that debate is healthy, questioning is healthy, and doubt is healthy.

In our congregation’s own voyage through the UCC’s “Open and Affirming” (OnA) process, we are also learning to question and to doubt: are we “Open” enough? Are we affirming everyone who walks through our doors? How do we “affirm” those who do not feel they can enter our doors, or who do not even know we are “there” for them?

Doubt is one of the greatest tools we have in the exercise of our faith. It helps us refine and strengthen our own faith, and it helps us move forward on the path(s) God calls us to tread. What it will not do is make what we do (and believe) seem reasonable to the rest of the world – the world will continue to believe that what we do – in faith – is foolishness.

But, that’s not the point. It doesn’t matter what the world thinks about what we are doing about LGBTQ rights, stewardship of the environment; or any other issue. What matters is what are we called to do, and how do we plan to accomplish such things. “Shooting from the hip” won’t do it: careful and thoughtful preparation is always required.

God calls us to seem foolish to the world through the wise exercise of our faith.  So, what others think of our faith is irrelevant; but having a faith that is foolish is a problem.

Amen.

Referenced Scriptures:

1 Corinthians 1:18-25 (NRSV)

Copyright (c) 2015, Allen Vander Meulen III, all rights reserved.  I’m happy to share my writings with you, as long as proper credit for my authorship is given. (e.g., via a credit that gives my full name and/or provides a link back to this site – or just email me and ask!)

Author: Allen

A would be historian turned IT Professional who responded to the call to the Ministry, and is now focused on social justice and community service. He is a father of two (ages 28 & 7). He and his wife enjoy life near Boston. You can follow Pastor Allen on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/PastorAllenV/ or on Twitter @allenvm3.

5 thoughts on “Our Foolish Faith”

  1. Faith means believing the Word the Father sent us, John1:1, 1:14. Faith means aligning our lifes with the Covenant Christ shed His blood for. Faith means letting the Holy Ghost lead us to the truths and promises the Father gives us through Jesus Christ and believing on every Word. The faith you speak of is all worldly. Those that gather with Christ are His, those that don’t scatter abroad.

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    1. Well, I was with you until you said “The faith you speak of is all worldly…” I’m not sure how you came to that conclusion, but would be happy to hear you out on that…

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      1. Faith has nothing to do with this world. It’s how we, as individuals, respond to the Holy Ghost. We are to overcome this world the way Christ did, Matt.4:4. Lov and Peace to you

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      2. Consider the title of my blog – “The Here and The Hereafter” – which indicates my focus on a journey we all share towards a faith that is active and effective in this world – building the so called “Kingdom of God” as we have been called to do.

        Because God is infinite, I believe that we will never fully develop a definitive or “final” understanding of what God is, or wants for us in our lives. To claim to do so is an attempt to put God in a box bounded by the limits of human understanding and capabilities. Faith is a journey towards an ever greater understanding of God’s love for us, and God’s purposes and will for our lives. This is a clear and unavoidable theme found throughout in the entire Bible – not just in the New Testament. Jesus, for instance, roundly and consistently condemns those who claim that their faith is the one and only path to God. Both Jesus and Paul firmly condemn those who attempt to force others to believe as they do.

        I spent many years in congregations and prominent Christian organizations that believed as you seem to do. I certainly found a great many worthy, caring, compassionate and very faithful Christians there – people who walked the talk and brought a great deal of healing and restoration into the lives of others. But, I also found those who caused a great deal of harm through demanding others adhere to a specific standard of faith (which also happened to be their own, in all cases).

        These same people also often placed their faith ahead of – and to the exclusion of – any consideration for how their faith played out in practice in this world – which is, after all, God’s Creation and something that God demands we be good stewards of. So, for me, if one’s faith does not help us live better lives, and bring positive change to the world and/or to the lives of others, then what good is it?

        For me, the faith you and I share begins with the Two Great Commandments – “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind.” And “Love Your Neighbor as yourself.” – For me, there are no exceptions to this rule, which means that I must respect and seek to learn from the beliefs and faiths of others – who are also creatures of God, after all, and therefore must exhibit the action of God’s love in their lives in some way. So, condemning or judging another’s faith is rarely – if ever – something that our God would want to see us do.

        So, thanks for your input – but I do think that in stating that my faith is worldly, you do not have an appreciation for the love I have for all of God’s creation, and the determination to live out that faith in my daily walk through this world. From my perspective, faith must be “worldly” to be valid at all.

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