The Absurdity-Driven Life

“If we are out of our mind, it is for the sake of God.”

(2 Cor 5:13)

80-2Do you make several “foolish” decisions a day?  Do people often look at you strangely, shake their head with scorn and just walk away?  Do you regularly get accused of being silly, foolish or extremely impractical by those close to you?  Do people think you’re a bit off your rocker?  

If you answered “No” to the above questions, you may not be following Christ as closely as you should.  One thing that rings clearly throughout the Bible is that God’s people are called to live in a way radically different from what the world deems normal.  For example:

Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to saving yourself, your true self. What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you? What could you ever trade for your soul?” (Mark 8:34-37 The Message)

Human wisdom is so tinny, so impotent, next to the seeming absurdity of God. Human strength can’t begin to compete with God’s “weakness.”  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”? (1 Corinthians 1:25ff)

When it comes down to it, we should look a bit nutty to those who don’t understand what God is up to in the world.  The Kingdom he inaugurated cuts against all conventional wisdom.  The revolution Jesus started is like no other.

How can we NOT look a little goofy and off kilter when…

  • We believe it is better to “embrace suffering” rather than running from it.
  • We believe “self-help is no help at all” in a culture enamored by Dr. Phil.
  • We are called to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us.
  • We are called to lead others by being last — not first in line.
  • We “turn the other cheek” instead of seeking revenge.
  • We believe true power is coming under others in self-sacrificial service rather than bossing people from above.
  • We are called to deny ourselves rather than indulge our desires.
  • We believe that “power is made perfect in weakness.”
  • We worship a man executed as an enemy of the state.
  • We hear voices and talk to an invisible God.
  • We believe in Christ “to die is gain.”

And so on and so forth.

bookIf we really believe the Apostle Paul was correct in asserting that “Human wisdom is so tinny, so impotent, next to the seeming absurdity of God” (1 Cor 1:25), then why do give the nightly news so much creedence? Why do we so quickly buy the media’s bias on matters of importance?  Why do we so easily fall into the humanly-created political options of Left and Right?  Why do we so uncritically trust Time and Newsweek magazine cover stories?  Why do we look so similar to the average unbeliever when we’re not in the pew on Sundays?

And, most frustratingly, why do the only Christian people gaining the reputation for being crazy wing nuts have to be the obnoxious, self-righteous, conservative fundamentalists or the off-their-rocker prosperity teachers and false healers?  Let’s reclaim our calling to be “out of our mind for God” (2 Cor 5:13).  Let’s put the peculiarity back into the people of God.  Let’s embrace our call to holy oddness.  Let’s make strange the new normal and God’s foolishness the new wisdom of today.

Here’s a great book by one of God’s weirdos demonstrating what it might look like for us to embrace a lifestyle of an “ordinary radical” as we play our part in Jesus’ “Irresistible Revolution.”  The Irresistible Revolution by Shane Claiborne

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Daniel Kent says:

    Interesting post. There is some good thoughts here, but I leave the post with a nagging sense of disagreement. I guess the Christian worldview looks foolish to the world because the world does not share some of the metaphysical beliefs Christians hold. In the same way that the people who killed the Salem witches looked absurd to us who do not meaningfully believe in witches.

    I guess… our beliefs may seem absurd to people of different worldviews, but we should NOT seek absurdity. It is not the absurdity that is good. It is the truth we hold. Likewise, Jesus sparked a revolution because of the wonderful good news and cosmic reorientation his resurrection brought. But, it is not the revolution that is good. It is the resurrection. Claiborne, and those like him, seem to be more in love with revolution than with the resurrection (ie, why is claiborne!! on the cover!). Jesus wasn’t trying to start an irresistible revolution. He was trying to establish covenant with humanity (for the poor AND the rich).

    The other problem I have is that… you correctly point out that people so so SO quickly align with “the left” or “the right,” yet… the author you recommend is a poster child for the “FAR left.” He advocates a redistribution of wealth. I do not think that a redistribution of wealth is the answer to our social problems. Nor is money evil.

    I don’t know. Claiborne has a draw and an appeal to me largely because (as you astutely pointed out) the fundamentalists and right-wing nuts are so nauseating. But I, personally, don’t like being told how to “be” by either side. I believe I can be myself. I can be myself in a very Christlike manner. And you know, no matter how I am, there is always some christian who will tell me to “be” different. It is as inevitable as it is unhelpful.

    So I share your malaise with the current fickleness of modern believers, but I am not sure claiborne has the answer to our problems. Furthermore, oddness and strangeness are beyond our control. I could run around in a dress and not be considered odd at all… if I wandered into a transvestite conference. The results of faith are revolutionary and are perceived as strange. But those are external realities that we have no control over. The hope lies in the internal realm of character and thought.

    1. Jeremy Berg says:

      Good push back, Dan. However, I believe you have dismissed Claiborne prematurely by just labeling him a run of the mill far lefty, and misunderstand my call for “holy oddness.” Have you read both of his books in their entirety (“Irresistible Revolution” and “Jesus For President”)? Please do before casting too many stones.

      The Revolution he speaks of is the revolutionary calling of the church — not the state. I agree redistribution of wealth is poor idea for nations, but appropriate for the community believers. Read Acts. I don’t look to Claiborne for advice on global economy or worldly politics. But I have found him a prophetic voice to call the church back to our calling to be a peculiar people who are the hands and feet of Jesus. I found Boyd’s “Myth of a Christian Nation” very compatible with many of Claiborne’s views on church and politics in “Jesus For President”.

      I agree with you that we should not seek absurdity but the truth, and to be faithful to the Kingdom mission God has given us. You mentioned others seeing us absurd for our worldview and metaphysical beliefs. I was speaking more of our Jesus-shaped LIFESTYLE and BEHAVIOR that looks absurd to those outside the Kingdom. That’s why I specifically mentioned loving enemies rather than revenge, power under rather than over, denying self in order to gain rather than self-indulgence which ultimately leaves us empty. We are not to be different for the sake of being different. We are to be different in so far as Jesus was/is different. So, yes, be yourself in a Christlike way, as you said. But you will find many ways in which you simply CANNOT be like Jesus if you are too much like “the world.” Of course, not every aspect of 21st American culture is unlike Christ either.

      I think we agree that Jesus’ way looks impractical in a pragmatic society, and self-denying in a self-indulgent one. I think your last paragraph in your comment is right on. Let’s focus on inward transformation and growth in godly character and the results will take care of themselves.

      And, don’t you think it’s fickle and demeaning to pass judgment on a person because part of their face is on their book cover? Seems childish and extremely prejudiced to me.

      Keep it coming, bro!

  2. mary says:

    Cool very Cool I like the way you put it. Be different fun show others what they are really missing. Knowing Jesus is a lot of fun others do not understand. We need to show others what is like, I took my oldest daugher to Sonshine she has never seen so much fun and the different chirstains, Some with spike hair some with no hair some with color hair I know that the world would think dont get mixed up with those people there trouble. But they don’t see the truth the love the kindness we need to show them tell them love them.
    Just a thought

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