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.
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!)