Christ is born!
“You’re making a spectacle of yourself.” With that, my 5th grade teacher, Mrs. Thompson, set about correcting me for being the class clown during math! Since I didn’t know what a “spectacle” was, she suggested I look it up! Mrs. Thompson was a really good teacher!
“Spectacle” is defined as “a visually striking performance, or display; an event or scene regarded for its visual impact.” It comes to us through Old French and Middle English, from the Latin for “public show.”
If you are seeing a spectacle, you aren’t seeing something that is trying to hide or keep to itself. A spectacle is both obvious and eventful. There are always consequences to a spectacle, and they aren’t always good.
Look at our lesson today in 1 Corinthians 4:9-16:
Brethren, God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, like men sentenced to death; because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels and to men. We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute. To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are ill-clad and buffeted and homeless, and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we try to conciliate; we have become, and are now, as the refuse of the world, the off-scouring of all things. I do not write this to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children. For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel. I urge you, then, be imitators of me.
St. Paul is confronting the Corinthians with the consequences of a Christian devotion that makes it impossible to hide the fact that you are a follower of Jesus Christ. And this is especially true of the leaders of the Christian community, the Church. He describes the consequences of his public, visible, and consequential leadership as being a “death” sentence (which it will literally be in his case) and a “spectacle” for all creation, especially for the Angels and the Humans. He then declares this “spectacle” means he is regarded as a “fool” for Christ’s sake.
The rest of his message to these Corinthians pulls down any notion that being a “respected” leader of the Christians means being treated respectfully. In fact, Paul insists that this public ministry means he is treated badly by the “respectable” crowd and that the “elites” of the world think of him as a fool.
Wow, sounds wonderful! Where do I sign up? (Sarcasm intended!)
Of course, the Corinthians were a society that prized being seen as sophisticated and “respectable.” And the Christian Faith was looked down on by the sophisticated and the elite of that day. The Christians were thought of as “backward” and “weird” and not willing to go along with the rest of society. Sounds very familiar, doesn’t it? And yet, even in our day, we have those who say they are Christ followers who seem to be more interested in “getting along” with the “respectable” and “acceptable” ideologies of the day rather than bear the shame of sincere piety and devotion to the Faith. They seem to want to make peace with the very ideas that are never going to be compatible with the Timeless Faith. And it is clear they would prefer to “update” the Faith or “redefine” the Faith so it is acceptable to the “elites” of the world. And they call this being “relevant” or “progressive” or any number of labels mean to shame those who are “not up to date.”
But the Timeless Faith is a Family that stretches back to the Apostles themselves and these heroes of our Faith are our Fathers. And if we abandon our Fathers, our parentage that preserved the Faith for us, how can we claim to be members of the same family? We become something else when we reject the wisdom of the Timeless Faith. We may be accepted by this fallen and adulterous age, but in embracing their acceptance, we reject the very foundation stones of the House we claim to live in.
Today, this new year will press us to choose to either be embarrassed by our “backward” past or to be willing to be seen as a fool for Christ. The choice for the wise person is easy: I’d rather be thought of as a fool by the ever shifting sands of a fickled cultural elite than be seen as unfaithful to the Eternal Savior of my soul. Being a “spectacle” to Angels and Men is Being Orthodox on Purpose!
P.S. Lord Jesus, it is so very easy to be unfaithful, especially when I am trying to avoid being embarrassed and thought of as foolish by the respectable crowd. But grant me the courage to care more about my faithfulness to You and less about my reputation among those who already reject You. Give me courage to overcome the fear of being thought foolish for the joy of hearing from You “Well done, faithful servant.”