A Martyr And A Fool
The following article first appeared in the Summer 2010 issue of SALT Magazine.
A MARTYR AND A FOOL
By Cindy McDermott
"A man who has faith must be prepared not only to be a martyr, but to be a fool." (G.K. Chesterton.) If this quotation sounds familiar, perhaps you read it in SALT. Our daughter found it for our last issue and when I read it, it really affected me. I think what it impressed on me was this: As Christians we often talk about being willing to give up our lives for Jesus Christ. Of course we would be a martyr, we say! But most of us will not find ourselves in such a situation. It is likely that most of us will, however, find ourselves ridiculed or misunderstood by the world. The world will think we are misdirected or stupid. It will think us a fool. Are we willing to be a fool for Christ?
Many people in the Bible were probably considered fools by their contemporaries because of their faith in God. Remember, these people were people just like us. They were going about their daily business, making a living, raising a family. But then God got a hold of them. They believed in Him, and He asked them to do some pretty amazing (and sometimes not so amazing) things – things the world didn’t understand.
Let’s consider Noah. The people of his day were evil. So evil, in fact, that the Bible says their every inclination was only evil all the time. But Noah, Genesis says, was blameless. So he probably really stuck out. Here they were having all this ‘fun’ and Noah wouldn’t take part in any of it. They probably thought he was a fool. Then comes the day when God tells Noah to build an ark, and a pretty big one at that. And Noah did, and his foolishness likely increased in the eyes of the people.
Let’s consider Abraham. God told him to leave his country, his people, and his father’s household to go to the land God would show him. It sounds to me like he didn’t know exactly where he would end up. If the people of his day knew he was leaving to go to who knows where because God told him to, he probably would have been thought a fool. “Where do you see yourself in five years, Abraham?” “Well, I’m not sure; God hasn’t told me yet.” You can guess how well that probably would have gone over with those around him.
God later told Abraham that his descendants would number like the stars, and that he and his wife – a woman beyond childbearing years – would have a child. And Abraham believed God. Those around him probably thought he was gullible – or delirious. And years after that took place, Abraham took that son – his only son, through whom all his descendants were supposed to come – and began to sacrifice him on an altar because God told him to. That would look beyond foolish.
Let’s consider Moses. He and Aaron went before Pharoah with a staff and demanded that he let God’s people go. He set out into the desert with a multitude of Israelites. He ventured to cross the sea with water piled up on either side of him. He struck a rock expecting water to come out. Wouldn’t he be considered a fool?
Let’s consider Joshua. Every day for six days he circled the city of Jericho with the armed men and the priests blowing trumpets. How foolish they must have looked!
Let’s consider Gideon. He whittled down his army to a mere three hundred men to fight against the Midianites. He sent the rest of his soldiers home! How foolish is that?
Let’s consider Daniel. He boldly asked his captors for special food to eat. He bravely went before the king to name and interpret his dream – knowing that if he failed all the wise men of the land would be killed. He rebelled against the king’s edict and prayed to God – knowing he would face the lions. What a fool!
Let’s consider Paul, an outstanding Jew of his time, trained by Gamaliel, a devout Pharisee. He rejected Judaism, incurred the wrath of the Jews, and made himself suspect in the eyes of the Christians. He spent his years in danger, hungry, jailed, flogged, shipwrecked. What a fool, all over a (supposed) ‘dead’ man named Jesus!
“And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about ... Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. Women received back their dead, rasied to life again. Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated ... They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground.” (Hebrews 11:32-38)
They were considered fools. And what do fools look like today? A fool has thirteen children when the world says you should stop at two. A fool who works in a restaurant claims all his tips on his tax returns. A fool asks the outsider to join him during lunch. A fool homeschools and thinks some things are more important than mere ‘socialization’. A fool misses the popular movies and songs of the day to maintain his strict standards in his home. A fool throws away the TV. A fool rejects modern fashion for more modest clothing. A fool saves his first kiss for his wedding day. A fool can look like many things, but the fool of today shares some things in common with the foolish men of the Bible, who gave up an easy life and endured being misunderstood and mistreated by men. Who faced continual hardship and death. Who did it because they were looking forward to a heavenly city, whose architect and builder is God. The world did not understand them, for it did not understand Christ. And they were commended for their faith. But in the world’s eyes, they were fools for Christ, and “the world was not worthy of them”.
Is the world worthy of us?
"Do not deceive yourselves. If any of you thinks he is wise by the standards of this age, he should become a "fool" so that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God's sight." (1 Cor. 3:18-19a)
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