From Antioch’s Identity Documents
Company of Fools
Christians are out of step with the world. We look foolish. We make decisions and commitments that seem illogical to others. We march to a different tune and work for different goals. In a lot of ways we’re fools.
It’s a fitting description when we begin to look at the New Testament account of Jesus and his followers. Paul talks about God choosing the “despised things” of this world . The name “Christian” was actually a term of derision when originally coined. Jesus was mocked as being a nobody from a nothing town . Jesus asked his followers to leave their jobs and taught people to love their enemies and bless those who persecute them. Jesus applauded those who gave away the last of what they had and his followers were warned that the world would hate them and want to kill them. Paul was continuously viewed as a troublemaker and accused of being driven “insane” by his Christian learning . He also wrote that the idea of Jesus dying to save the world was “foolishness to the Greeks” . And in the end, Paul himself declared, “We are fools for Christ.”
When it is all added up and shaken down, the early followers of Jesus were a company of fools. They didn’t fit. They weren’t wanted. And they were seen as nobodies. But – and this is a big but – they changed the world. The face of civilization has never been the same. They spread despite persecution. They stayed in Rome and ministered to those with the plague while others fled. They claimed to know something that others didn’t and often were willingly led to their deaths for their beliefs. They acted out their faith and their call. They were agents of change in their world.
Our faith and our call is still the same as theirs. It is every bit as exciting and terrifying as it was for them. We are called to make a difference. We are called to be agents of change in our world.
What I’ve found, however, is that many Christians have become overwhelmed by the shere magnitude of suffering in the world. Their idealism has been lost to fatalism: “What will be will be,” and the scope of their vision doesn’t extend beyond their own personal lives.
I’m reminded of J.R.R. Tolkien’s book The Return of the King where Denethor (Steward of Gondor) has expressed his despair at the tide of battle (and will soon commit suicide). His fatalistic view of the future and the magnitude of the struggle clouded his mind and extinguished his hope. I love Gandalf’s response to Denethor as he says with resolve and commitment, “The rule of no realm is mine, neither of Gondor nor any other, great or small. But all worthy things that are in peril as the world now stands, those are my care. And for my part, I shall not wholly fail of my task, though Gondor should perish, if anything passes through this night that can still grow fair or bear fruit and flower again in days to come. For I also am a steward.”
Gandalf, unlike Denethor, looked to his responsibility and calling rather than his fear. He accepted the role of steward and servant of all things.
We too are to look to our responsibility as stewards and servants even though the prospects look dim and the world thinks we’re fools. We too are to try and make a difference. If it wasn’t possible to change the world God would not have told us to try!
We are to be agents of change. We are to be the ones who stay with the sick while Rome flees. We are to be helpers in God’s re-creative effort. We are supposed to work for the right things in life and not simply try to get by in life. We are anti-Darwin at a creedal level. We are to lay our own life down rather than contribute to a system that takes life and thrives on competitive advantage. As Cornelius Plantinga writes, “To be a responsible person is to find one’s role in the building of shalom, the re-webbing of God, humanity, and all creation in justice, harmony, fulfillment, and delight.”
The Hebrew word “shalom” literally means “the way things ought to be.” Peace, harmony, and unity are all encompassed in this rich word. It is why Jesus did more than just preach – he touched the sick, the sinner, the forgotten, the outcast, the wrongly accused, the helpless and he defied the bully, the self-righteous, the elite and the selfish. When we emulate this kind of mercy and love we become an incarnational community – a community that embodies God’s love and is involved in the building of shalom.
God’s provision to help us with this immense calling or stewardship is to provide us with a church (or community of likeminded fools). Through church we receive training. As Ephesians chapter 4 describes, the role of pastors is to “equip and prepare” the rest of the church “to serve or do the work of ministry.” And through church fellowship we receive motivation and support. As the writer of Hebrews says, “let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” And it is to the church that Paul gives the exhortation, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.”
Antioch Church, if it is to be biblical, must become a company of fools and call its people to the issues of the world and the needs of lost and hurting people. We must rally to the banner of justice and tangible expressions love. We must also train, coach, empower, and motivate people to be idealistic agents of change in this world. This means we can’t be afraid of other peoples’ ministry ideas or try to control their expressions of love. We can’t be scared to open the box and unleash the unique creative energy of people. We must solicit creativity and empower people to dream. And lastly, we need to be a place of encouragement, healing, grace, acceptance and support as we succeed or fail, stumble or accomplish, burn out or catch fire.
We have a world to change…
…[And] diseases desperate grown
By desperate appliance are relieved,
Or not at all.
Hamlet, Act 4 Scene 3