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Foolish or wise?

Cadet Daniel Buckingham
Despite human failings and limitations, God continues to show up and work through ordinary people.

Another session of Salvation Army officers is about to be unleashed on New Zealand, Fiji and Tonga. This one going by the name of the ‘Disciples of the Cross’.

These 16 men and women will be commissioned and ordained as Salvation Army officers (clergy) over the next week. They’ll start work in their new roles in mid-January, with most serving as leaders of Salvation Army churches (corps).

It’s a pretty cool thing when you think about it that so many people are keen to step aside from more traditional employment to take up the challenge of helping lead the church’s mission. It’s also a sign that The Salvation Army is in good shape that so many are prepared to invest, body and soul, into the movement’s future.

Now, I’m not having a go at any of this number when I say that they remind me of a poem by a retired Salvation Army general, John Gowans. It’s entitled simply ‘Oddities’ …

You let some funny people
Work for You,
And Your disciples are a motley crew!
The limited
The damaged
And the lame
Do daily wonders
In Your holy Name.
They’re far from perfect;
You don’t seem to mind.
They’re far from worthy
And You’re far too kind!
You still prefer,
I note with glad surprise,
To use the weak things
To confound the wise!

This poem takes its inspiration from 1 Corinthians 1:26-31, which talks about God choosing the foolish(or weak) things—in this case, people—to confound (or baffle) the wise. Perhaps a more understandable contrast here is not so much ‘foolish’ as opposed to ‘wise’, but ‘ordinary’ against ‘powerful’.

The Christian Church was founded by a crucified outcast Jew who was followed by people of ‘ordinary’ stock. Most of the early Christians didn’t come from nobility, wealth or power. They weren’t slick performers, eloquent preachers or persuasive campaigners. They were probably as amazed as anyone that God worked through them.

Paul, the writer of 1 Corinthians, had himself been the strongest opponent of the new Christian faith, aggressively persecuting its members. But after he was literally blinded by the goodness and glory of a resurrected Jesus Christ, he too threw in his lot with this ‘motley crew’.

Eugene Peterson’s translation of Paul’s writing sums this up nicely: Take a good look, friends, at who you were when you got called into this life. I don’t see many of ‘the brightest and the best’ among you, not many influential, not many from high-society families. Isn’t it obvious that God deliberately chose men and women that the culture overlooks and exploits and abuses, chose these ‘nobodies’ to expose the hollow pretensions of the ‘somebodies’? That makes it quite clear that none of you can get by with blowing your own horn before God. Everything that we have—right thinking and right living, a clean slate and a fresh start—comes from God by way of Jesus Christ. That’s why we have the saying, ‘If you’re going to blow a horn, blow a trumpet for God.’

I’m sure the Disciples of the Cross would be the first to humbly number themselves among all who are have been amazed that, despite human failings and limitations, God continues to show up and work through them.

Foolish or wise? You be the judge.

By Christina Tyson