There’s a great presentation by a friend of mine, Jonathan Pageau. Jonathan was a regular guest on my live show Faith Encouraged LIVE. His presentation from the first part of 2020 is called “The Fool in Scripture and Culture” (here’s a link). The talk is worth your time, but the gist of the talk is that when society is chaotic, watch the fools in society and watch how they use folly and foolishness to wake the world up to reality.
Our own Orthodox faith has a whole, long, history with some saints called “holy fools.” These saints did some incredibly outlandish behaviors all in order to make visible the woundedness of our society without God’s grace. This holy foolishness tends to shame the hypocrisy of a humanity who are hiding from themselves and their woundedness and need for God’s grace. So, the fools among us make us laugh to ease us into the realization of our own hypocrisy.
Look at our lesson today in 2 Corinthians 11:5-21:
Brethren, I think that I am not in the least inferior to these superlative apostles. Even if I am unskilled in speaking, I am not in knowledge; in every way we have made this plain to you in all things.
Did I commit a sin in abasing myself so that you might be exalted, because I preached God’s gospel without cost to you? I robbed other churches by accepting support from them in order to serve you. And when I was with you and was in want, I did not burden any one, for my needs were supplied by the brethren who came from Macedonia. So I refrained and will refrain from burdening you in any way. As the truth of Christ is in me, this boast of mine shall not be silenced in the regions of Achaia. And why? Because I do not love you? God knows I do!
And what I do I will continue to do, in order to undermine the claim of those who would like to claim that in their boasted mission they work on the same terms as we do. For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is not strange if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.
I repeat, let no one think me foolish; but even if you do, accept me as a fool, so that I too may boast a little. (What I am saying I say not with the Lord’s authority but as a fool, in this boastful confidence; since many boast of worldly things, I too will boast.) For you gladly bear with fools, being wise yourselves! For you bear it if a man makes slaves of you, or preys upon you, or takes advantage of you, or puts on airs, or strikes you in the face. To my shame, I must say, we were too weak for that!
St. Paul tells the Corinthians, a church he’s had to use some tough love to get them to wake up to the spiritual illnesses they were ignoring, that he’s willing to be accepted as a fool among them. He’s ok in being thought of as a fool, especially if this gives these Corinthians the room to accept and admit their need for correction and healing.
He teaches them and us that his embrace of an image of weakness among them as he exercises his authority as their bishop was always meant to create a space for them to confront themselves in their spiritual need. A true father of the people will always be willing to sacrifice his reputation to serve his spiritual children. The whole point Paul is trying to communicate to us that the whole point of appearing foolish is meant to serve you to make you uncomfortable, make you laugh at the fool, and wake you up to the foolishness of your own life when you ignore your spiritual needs.
This whole passage invites us to look at this great Apostle in this powerful image that he purposefully takes on weakness and foolishness all to serve his spiritual children in their growth as honest followers of Jesus Christ. It’s worth the sacrifice to Paul if his spiritual children truly grow up in their faith.
Today, are you willing to look foolish to the world IF it would wake up the world for their need for Jesus Christ? Doing this wise sacrifice for others is the very image of being Orthodox on Purpose!