25 This is because the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.
26 Look at your situation when you were called, brothers and sisters! By ordinary human standards not many were wise, not many were powerful, not many were from the upper class. 27 But God chose what the world considers foolish to shame the wise. God chose what the world considers weak to shame the strong. 28 And God chose what the world considers low-class and low-life—what is considered to be nothing—to reduce what is considered to be something to nothing. 29 So no human being can brag in God’s presence. 30 It is because of God that you are in Christ Jesus. He became wisdom from God for us. This means that he made us righteous and holy, and he delivered us.
We usually hear more about the verses that precede these (1 Corinthians 1:18-24). Many of us have family members or friends who consider the idea of a crucified Lord who rose from the dead just too much to believe. But then the apostle went on to say God not only presented a “foolish” sounding message. God also shared that message through “ordinary” people. That part of the message may have been harder on the Corinthians’ pride (and ours).
Lord Jesus, ruler of the universe, you chose to walk this earth as an “ordinary” small-town rabbi. Tame my ego, and make me glad to be one of your “ordinary” people. Amen.
I’ll admit, even after writing GPS Insights for four years, I still get a little nervous any time it’s my day for the insight. I think I’m the only writer on here with no formal training on the Bible, and as if that wasn’t enough, I also have a serious mental disorder. I have a lot of marks against me. There are days I question whether I have anything worthwhile to add to theological conversations.
That’s why Paul’s words today in 1 Corinthians 1 are so encouraging to me. Paul was one of the foremost theological experts of his day. He was one of the smartest Pharisees, he had some of the best schooling, and he had risen to a position of power within the religious establishment. He had every credential you could think of that would have made him a spiritual leader. And yet, he didn’t begin his real ministry until he was shown a different path by a group of people with no real credentials. In his traditional pursuit of expertise, he had completely missed the point until he was shown the way by someone who had gotten there a different way.
Danish philosopher and theologian Soren Kierkegaard talked at length about the difference between an objective relationship with truth and a subjective one. An objective relationship with truth is very simple: you see something and accept the truthfulness of it. This is knowing what is right. A subjective relationship with truth is more nuanced: you accept something as true, and you decide what that means--how it will change you, how you will think of that truth, and how it will impact your view of the world. This is becoming right in response to what is right. In Kierkegaard’s eyes, how we believe is much more important than what we believe. We obviously need to have accurate views of truth, but fixing problems with a subjective relationship with truth is much harder than an objective one. It’s possible to believe all the right things but fail to let that truth change us. That’s what Kierkegaard was getting at, and that’s exactly what happened to Paul.
Saul (who later became Paul) was such an expert in the law that he turned his ministry into one of solely correcting others in their failures--even to the point of putting some to death. He was so zealous in his pursuit of truth that he completely missed the point on what all of those things meant. He believed all the right things--he believed more correctly than the vast majority of people in his day--but he still failed because his life and actions did not reflect the love of God.
Now, I’m not trying to downplay the importance of formal education and training in the Bible. If you have a chance to take a class on the Bible or pursue higher education, by all means, take it. But credentials like that are no magic bullet. People with advanced degrees in theology face the same faith problems as people opening it for the first time: they must choose to take what they know and let it change their lives. No matter where you are in your faith walk, this is a choice you will have to make every day. The good news is that this means that, no matter how far along you are, you will encounter truths that are worthy of sharing with others. In Christ, there are no formal barriers to truth: everyone has equal access to God and an equal place in His kingdom.
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