Summary: if we live for "Christ" the world will call us a fool. If we don't, we will truly be a fool. There is no in-bewteen because those who lose their lives for his sake will find them and live with Him forever.
In the fall of 1976, Lu Ratmeyer led me in the "sinner's prayer," and in the spring of 1977, I joined a church for the first time in my life. Actually, I threw myself into as if my life depended on it. There were Sunday morning services, Sunday evening services, midweek services, adult education classes, youth events, and of course, Evangelism Explosion. Initially, everyone I knew was happy for me. They knew what I had been through, and they felt that any new version of "me" had to be better that the one they had known. However, when they saw how enthused I was about the gospel, they became concerned. Everything is better in moderation, they suggested, and they certainly didn't want me to become a "fanatic," or "a fool for Christ." It is good, they thought, to make faith part of your life, but it is foolish... to let faith direct your life. Well, as you can tell, I didn't listen to them. I couldn't listen... because I knew that my very life was at stake. If I had any hope of living a full and joyful life, or of being any good to anyone, I had to be "a fool" for Christ, which meant that I had to surrender completely to his Lordship and serve him with every fiber of my being.
So, not thinking that I had a choice, I became a "fool for Christ," but in becoming a fool- in trusting Him instead of myself- I was liberated from the second-guessing and people-pleasing that had dominated my life. I was free to take risks and to be vulnerable, and besides, I found myself in very good company! Paul noted that he was a "fool for Christ" because he preached nothing more than Christ crucified and risen. Yet, even Paul was just one more in a long list of fools... Noah was the first "fool for God." He took God at His word and built a boat on dry land. It wasn't a small boat either. It was a big boat and he led all sorts of animals into it. He was like the man we see on a street corner- the one with a sandwich board saying "the end of the world is at hand"- and he must have been mocked and ridiculed every single day... until the first raindrop fell. Abraham was the next fool in line. He was born in modern-day Iraq, and his family had worshiped the gods in that place for who knows how long. Abram, as he was known then, was neither a Christian nor a Jew, but in response to a new voice, he pulled up his stakes and wandered as an alien land for the rest of his life. He trusted in God, it seems, to the point of appearing foolish. He was willing to take his son, Isaac, up Mount Moriah, believing somehow that God would provide the sacrifice. Leaving the known for the unknown, tying your son up on a sacrificial altar- these acts are not reasonable. They are not measured, and there is no doubt that Father Abraham was a fool for God.
The prophet, Isaiah, walked naked and barefoot for more than 3 years to make a point for God. Hosea married a prostitute, and gave his children odd names, for the same reason. God told him to do these things because Israel was unfaithful. John the Baptist lived in the wilderness. he ate locusts for dinner, and he looked like a wild man. He was another fool for God, as was Peter and the others, who immediately left their jobs and followed Christ. They, and the generations who preceded them, made their living as fishermen on the Sea of Galilee... until Jesus said, "Follow me," and then, they threw down their nets and followed him. Today, we are prone to read this story as if it is reasonable... but how many of us would leave our jobs and businesses to follow Christ... with or without giving notice? Not one, I would guess, because radical, faith-based decisions are NOT reasonable. How could they be? They are based on faith. According to the world, a wise man would never leave the security of home, unless he had a nest egg hidden away and his other bases covered. Finally, let's consider our Lord. From the world's perspective, there was never a bigger fool for God than Jesus of Nazareth. He never once listened to the voices of reason; he never once diluted his message or minimized the cost of discipleship. Bonhoeffer noted that, when Jesus calls a man, he bids him, "Come and die," but what kind of church growth slogan is that? It's foolish, but no more foolish that believing that you can change the world... without money, power, or press coverage. Even Satan pointed out that Jesus could accomplish his mission by making a name for himself and by taking matters into his own hands. When we were uniting two churches in Peoria, one of our elders gave an impassioned plea against the union, telling everyone in attendance that "Pastor Kenn and the leadership board were going too much on faith!" Yes, that's what he said... and his message makes sense to many people who have come to believe that the church is mostly a "business." Start with a prayer- certainly; sing a sweet song if you must; be a little bit bold and chalk it up to faith... BUT make your decisions on the basis of facts and reason. Living on faith never makes sense, and it never will. Thus, if you pick up your cross and live by faith, you will be a "fool" for Christ. If you share what you have with the poor, if you love your enemies, if you forgive 70 times 7, and in other ways, act like someone who has been born again, you will be labeled as a "fool for Christ," but in the process, you will claim the fullness of life. Your cup will overflow and you will dwell in the house of the Lord forever!