Friday, January 6, 2012

Being Crazy for Christ -- 2 Cor 5:13-15

In the interest of giving credit where credit is due; my supportive, beautiful, and sweet girlfriend was helping me to toy with the blog last night and suggested that I use this verse since "it seems to be what you're driving at". I love her insights, she thinks nothing like me (which is very often to her credit). That conversation got me in the mood to write about what I discovered while researching the verse.

Good day all!

The title of this blog has been a catalyst to raised eyebrows for sometime. Although I have only committed to blogging since the beginning of this year, I have toyed with the idea for sometime. I remember a dear brother in the Lord telling me that calling myself a Crazy Christian might seem abrasive to my brothers and sisters in Christ and may be a point of degradation to those in the secular world.

I happened to disagree with him, but I did begin to understand that perhaps the title might need some explaining. So I added the tagline "A blog that's unafraid to be called crazy by a world gone mad." I felt pretty confident that this explained my position: I think the world is mad. Sinful people, as sinful people have ALWAYS done, act like madmen (Romans 1). Yet, this sin is so pervasive (Rom 5:12) that those who are in bondage to it (Gal 4:3) look at those who aren't as being crazy.

However, what we find in the world today is a church that looks too much like the world. We're busy trying to make the world like us, make the world realize we aren't so bad, shun the things of God in exchange for the things of the world, and above all, NEVER, under any circumstances, EVER do we call the World into repentance. Churches, by and large, either spend their time petting the wool of the sheep they are shepherding or spend their time finding goats to pretend to be sheep. (Matt 25:32-33)

Along come guys like me, who see this for the madness it is, and we're called crazy. The world and the church say the exact same thing. Interesting isn't it?

So, are we crazy? The Apostle Paul, in his letter to Corinth, dealt with the same question:

For if we are beside ourselves, [it is] for God; or if we are of sound mind, [it is] for you. For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again. - 2Cor 5:13-15 NKJV
Note that this comes in the middle of the chapter. Let's break down the chapter for context.

Verses 1 -5 more or less begin the larger point Paul is making in this chapter. Paul is playing off the points he makes in Chapter 4 by saying that we have in our "earthen vessels" the treasure of the light of God and that we carry it around with us. He finishes chapter four expanding on the idea that we ought not lose heart because of persecution or other issues because those things are temporal, while the light of God is eternal. In verses 1-5, Paul continues this thought with a different analogy.

Then in verse 6 we have one of Paul's famous "Therefore"s. In other words he is saying "I've given you the facts, now here is what you ought to do. Verses 6 - 10 gives us two bullet points (if you will) of what we ought to do since we have the light of God in us.

  • Be of good courage (2 Cor 5:6)

  • Be in the habit of pleasing God (2 Cor 5:9)

It it the expansion and explanation of the second bullet point (2 cor 5:9) that Paul writes our verse. Paul knows that there are some the Corinthian church has dealt with that only look at the appearance (2 Cor 5:12). Given what Paul has said about outward appearance to the Corinthians, we already know that Paul doesn't care much for that point of view. (2 Cor 4:16 cf. Matt 23:26 & Luke 11:39) . But, what he is saying is that those who are in the habit of pleasing God may also point to that habit as a defense for why they do what their accusers say are foolish, perhaps even crazy, things (1 Cor 1:18).

If they're crazy, they're being crazy for the Lord. If they seem sane, they seem that way for the sake of the Corinthians (2 Cor 5:13). In much the same way; if we are crazy, it's for Him. If we are sane, it's for the benefit of those around us (1 Cor 9:19-23).

Why? Paul answers that it is because they are compelled to do so by Christ's love. Being reminded that as Adam died and as a result all have sin. Yet in the same way, Christ died so that all may have life (This dichotomy is a theme of Paul's and appears in many of his writings). But most importantly, the life that all may have isn't to be self serving, but rather to be life on our Lord's behalf as He died and rose again on OUR behalf (2 Cor 5:14-15). See how that works?

C.S. Lewis once talked about this in his address to Oxford called "Is Theology Poetry?" Lewis said that when one looks at all the religions of the world, one can only have two camps: Paganism (which Lewis called Hinduism) and Christianity. Every other religion, he said, was some heretical version of those two religions. Lewis dismissed "Hinduism" as silly and clearly man-made, and the Bible obviously agrees (Hab 2:19-20). Christianity he implied, could also be easily dismissed save for one glaring historical fact. . . Jesus.

Lewis said that Jesus was either the person He claimed to be or He was a complete lunatic. Often people refer to this (and too often mock it) as the apologetic of "Lord, Lunatic, or Liar". Yet for Lewis, there were only two choices, Lunatic or Lord; for any man who would willingly put himself through a crucifixion to keep up a lie would indeed be crazy.

I've often wondered if that is how the world looks at it. That this guy Jesus must simply be out of His mind. That the story is almost too incredible to be believed. That Jesus was simply an insane man who happened to say sensible things every now and then. I know, not all are like that. Some just dismiss Him as a perfectly sane moral teacher who said things that Rome and the Jews found unacceptable which is why they killed Him. We can call this the 'tragic victim dismissal'. Still others simply try to deny His existence altogether, and they continue to demonstrate their lack of learning and intellectual honesty in the process.

Now Lewis rectifies this by simply stating "And He was not a lunatic." Lewis was a genius like that. He would simply state the obvious and leave it to us to come up with the reasons why it was obvious. Good writers always encourage their readers to do their own thinking. In this case, we can examine Jesus' life and see that He certainly had His wits about Him. But, that's not the point here.

The point is that what we do is crazy. We devote our lives to a man who walked the earth over 2,000 years ago, and guide our lives by a book written by 40+ men of various backgrounds and in various times and places. To those who profess to be wise (and who doesn't in some way?), and to those who think that they can give only a cursory acknowledgement of the things that rule our lives, it must sound like total nonsense. We must look like complete lunatics. Too often, I think, the church is tired of its image and wants to just appear normal. If Paul said that this lunacy was a result of the love of God controlling us, what then (I ask slyly) is the controlling factor for wanting to shun this supposed madness?

Nonetheless, just as Lewis stated simply about Jesus that "He was not a lunatic", and we know it is obvious as to why; we know with confidence that we Christians are far from crazy. No no, instead the love of Christ compels us to not live merely for ourselves, including our own image, but for others. And ultimately, for Him.

"For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, And bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent." Where [is] the wise? Where [is] the scribe? Where [is] the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men." - 1 Cor 1:18-25 NKJV

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