Something usually happens to us when we become Catholics and Christians after many moons and a decade or two. We soften around the middle. We consider our feats and accomplishments as our doing. Discipline, cleverness, and sharpening our skills certainly aid in our development for God to use us.
We, though, can only boast in him.
Image by J F
By John Pearring
“Consider your own calling, brothers and sisters. Not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth.” (1 Corinthians 1:26)
It’s not that first verse that’s offensive. It’s the next two!
“Rather, God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise, and God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong, and God chose the lowly and despised of the world, those who count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those who are something …”
So, is God saying that the examples he sets before the secular world are the foolish, weak, lowly, and no counts? Yes. That would be us, folks. It’s a false bravado to see ourselves as shaming the wise and strong and used by God to reduce the celebrities and famous to our no-count status. Nonetheless, there you have it. God uses us as he sees fit.
Just to assuage the “few,” Paul hints at some wise, strong, and publicly regarded in their strength of faith. He does preface his backhanded compliment with “not many.” Among the faithful, then, there are a smattering of heady, wealthy, and wise folks. Not many of them, but clearly, God can use savvy folks, too.
Something usually happens to us when we become Catholics and Christians after many moons and a decade or two. We soften around the middle. We consider our feats and accomplishments as our doing. Discipline, cleverness, and sharpening our skills certainly aid in our development for God to use us. There’s nothing wrong with any of that. However, those hard-worked character traits and training regimens can become the flag on the top of our pole rather than a gift back to God.
Compliments and at-a-boy encouragements usually begin our slide into self-aggrandizement. We build up strong arms patting ourselves on the back. It’s a slow slide away, a tip-toeing from one room to another, when we accept accolades and praise for the tiny things.
God cares deeply that we remain tied to him and not to our own sense of self. Such slippery drops into pride have produced many famous quotes about Christian exceptionalism.
“The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips and walk out the door and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.”
Thus summarized Brennan Manning in The Ragamuffin Gospel. The most celebrated cynic in American history, Mark Twain, put the problem even more succinctly.
“There has been only one Christian. They caught him and crucified him — early.” Notebook, 1898
I pin my druthers on a more positive spin from one of the greatest evangelists in Christian history. The great traveling preacher, Billy Graham, is quoted often for saying, “If you were accused of being a Christian, would there be any evidence against you?”
Rather than worry about our honor, status, and stamina in accomplishing great things, it’s best to consider Graham’s notion. Have we provided evidence that convicts us of being a faithful, all-in Catholic, an active Christian lifestyle in an unbelieving world?
The method and corrective stance, how we project our Christianity, is not lost on Paul.
“It is due to [God] that you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, as well as righteousness, sanctification, and redemption, so that, as it is written, ‘Whoever boasts, should boast in the Lord.’”