26 Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him. 30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1)
Reading the opening chapter to 1 Corinthians yesterday morning was like basking in sunshine, it brought such joy. The brilliance of God’s topsy-turvey perspective brought me to tears. (Yes, more tears. It’s been that kind of a time!) But these were tears of happiness, wrapped up in holy laughter. This concept of God choosing “the foolish things” isn’t a new teaching, but I felt as though I was reading these verses with fresh eyes.
In my paraphrase – and happy to be corrected by those who are more knowledgeable – it seems that Paul is saying that those of us who believe in Jesus are not the kind of people “the world” would expect to be followers of God. We are the fools, the weak, the lowly, and the despised. Looking at us, how could it be possible that someone would be persuaded to follow Christ? This “great God” mustn’t be that great if these are the kinds of people he attracts. Because, let’s face it, we’re a pathetic bunch of losers in the eyes of the wise, the strong, the noble, and the esteemed. Therefore, the only one who can do the persuading is God himself, by the power of the Holy Spirit and the Word, working through his rag-tag bunch of followers. Nothing else. Definitely not based on our efforts alone. Thank goodness!
Realising this takes the pressure off. I can’t convert anyone. God does the converting. Not me. And I rejoice in that fact. All I can do is point people towards Jesus as I stumble along in the same direction. I guess I do that by loving and being obedient to God, and loving the people God puts in my path. Imperfectly, yes, but striving to keep those two great commandments.
As Paul himself did. It was a morning of revelation and reframing! Paul, who I generally think of as a somewhat arrogant intellectual with strong opinions, describes his experience of preaching the gospel in words I didn’t expect. “I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling.” (1 Corinthians 2:3) Paul was a highly intelligent man – no doubt about that! – but he was also a person who was afraid at times, just like the rest of us. I find it comforting that Paul was open and honest about what he was feeling, and was humble before God. Hopefully I will remember this about him, and carry it with me when I read his other letters.