As a pastor in a small church I am ridiculously blessed by all the volunteers that oversee and run ministries within the church and the community. This week one of those outreach ministries has been livening up the church building with games, music, bible lessons, skits, and tons of fun. Of course I’m talking about our annual Vacation Bible School event. VBS has held a special place in my heart for about 45 years since I attended as a child at the Moravian Church in Cinnaminson. I remember great leaders teaching us songs, games and stories. I remember snacks and even going back year after year to become one of those leaders/helpers. VBS was a formative part of my life.
As an adult, I’ve become VBS typecast. You see, I tend to try to see the lighter side of most things. I’m not always good at it, but I prefer humor over somberness. Which, of course makes me the natural person to play the “goofy guy” in the opening skit at Bible school. Yes, I know it’s a stretch. Anyway, it got me to thinking this week as we slog through a very busy VBS week and I prepare for an upcoming renewal leave – Have you ever heard that saying about being a “fool for Christ?”
I looked it up. The term comes from 1Corinthians 4:10 “We are fools for Christ, but you are so wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are honored, we are dishonored!” Now on its face, without context, this sounds like what I do at VBS, act foolishly for the sake of drawing people to Christ… but there’s really something much deeper going on here.
You see, I talk about context a lot. Context is important to understanding scripture because if I don’t understand the author’s intent, or what the author’s intended audience would have understood, then I don’t really understand the passage. There’s an old story that illustrates what I mean by this:
Many have heard the story of the man whose devotional reading consisted of cracking his Bible at random and reading the first verse his finger touched. One morning this was his verse for the day: “And Judas went out and hanged himself.” That can’t be it, he thought. So he tried again. “Go thou and do likewise” was his second hit. Chagrined, he thought, the third time is a charm! It wasn’t. It read: “What thou doest, do quickly!”
Context matters, and the context of that Corinthians passage isn’t really about acting foolishly in order to entertain people to Christ. What Paul is actually saying is that living a Christian life is different than living a secular life. You won’t be seen by non-Christian people as smart, but stupid. Not wise, foolish. The very things you do that identify you as a Christian will be seen as things worth separating you from society for. Now this certainly isn’t to say that Jesus didn’t like a good laugh or that Paul was always serious. It just means that being a “fool for Christ” is really about being different from the rest of the world. Not seeking worldly attentions, but Godly attention.
Now I don’t mind acting a little foolishly if it’ll illustrate an important theological point. In fact, I’m pretty good at making myself the butt of a joke if it will help people understand the grace of God. That’s why, even though it wears me out by the end of the week, as long as I’m able I’ll always say yes to being the goofy guy in the VBS skit. If it helps one kid know God’s grace, it was worth every pratfall.