Who Do We Think We’re Fooling?

With Easter falling on April 1, it’s easy for some to make connections between faith and foolishness. We’ve seen it in the news: pundits mocking Christians, as if we are crazy for our beliefs. However, God makes a connection between a lack of faith and foolishness. King David wrote in Psalms 14:1-3:

The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good. The LORD looks down from heaven on the sons of men to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God. All have turned aside, they have together become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.

Obviously, the Bible supports our faith in God, noting that it’s foolish to deny God’s existence. But if we read closely, that’s not all we find here.

What else does the Bible tell us about fools who claim there is no God? They are corrupt, doing vile things. They do not seek God. They turn aside from God, from God’s Word, from God’s will. Among all the “sons of men” – and that’s all of us! – it says in verse 3, “There is no one who does good, not even one.” Read carefully, this reveals that disobedience is denial.

That’s what Paul writes in Titus 1:16, “They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good.” John essentially tells us the same in 1 John 2:4-6, “The man who says, ‘I know him,’ but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him.”

Perhaps it is not so difficult to understand why unbelievers call us fools, because we so often deny God’s existence in our own disobedience. So, who do we think we’re fooling? I recently preached from Luke 16, where Jesus warned the Pharisees of their hypocrisy, “God knows your hearts.” While I know that I wouldn’t outright deny the existence of God, I also know what’s in my heart when I am disobedient. Are we so foolish to think we can get away with our own willful disobedience as if God does not notice simply because everyone around us does not know?

I don’t think most of us would deny our own disobedience, but don’t we often compare our own foolish selves to the fools of the world who deny God’s existence? Don’t we often think of ourselves as somehow being better because we claim to know Jesus? I also don’t believe that our claims to know Jesus are merely lip service, and I also don’t believe that our individual relationships with Jesus can be reduced to an all-or-none evaluation. The fact is, even the apostle Paul struggled with his relationship with Jesus and his own sinfulness, which is what we find in Romans 7:15, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” This is what leads Paul to write in Romans 7:24, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” The answer is obvious to Paul; it’s not his own effort or righteousness that saves him from his foolish disobedience: it’s Jesus Christ (Romans 7:25).

This is the Good News we celebrate because of the resurrection; we are saved despite our foolish sinfulness because Jesus is risen. Paul wrote in Titus 3:3-5:

At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.

While the world levels accusations of foolishness against our faith, let us not give them any fuel by being disobedient. Yes, we know that we were foolish (and sometimes continue to be so), but we also know God’s mercy despite our disobedience. Don’t deny your own foolishness, but celebrate his mercy in the resurrection of Jesus!