This past Sunday I spoke on a Theology of Creativity and at the end I prayed, “God help us dream bigger.” That reminded me of this piece adapted from Antioch’s founding documents.
May we be agents of change working out God’s redemption around us. May we be a 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. The name “Christian” was actually a term of derision when originally coined. 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 wrote that the idea of Jesus dying to save the world was “foolishness to the Greeks,” And in the end he 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. 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 and were agents of change.
Our faith and our call is still the same as theirs. It is every bit as exciting and terrifying as it was for them. 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.
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. 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. If it wasn’t possible to change the world God would not have told us to try!
We are to be agents of change – the ones who stay with the sick while Rome flees. We are to be helpers in God’s re-creative effort. 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.”
God’s provision to help us with this immense calling 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. 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.
We have a world to change…
…[And] diseases desperate grown
By desperate appliance are relieved,
Or not at all.
Hamlet, Act 4 Scene 3