For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards,[c] not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being[d] might boast in the presence of God. 1 Corinthians 1:26-29
How cool is your church?
Is it filled with people who have many material possessions? Is it filled with highly resourced, comfortable, successful, powerful people? It is a common sentiment throughout the years and in our current day, as the Church, to try hard to be relevant and “cool” by these worldly standards.
Jesus’ example in the gospels shows us a man who was marked by a tendency to confront worldly values and standards rather than mold to them. He understood the culture of first century Palestine and creatively challenged that culture with His incredible wisdom. His great relevance to the world was not that He would provide success and power to His witnesses, but that people of all walks of life could find a lasting identity of eternal value in His counter-cultural Kingdom. In fact, the people who flocked to Jesus’ often showed the opposite characteristics of worldly standards.
Those whom Jesus’ spent much time with were often people that no respectable Jew would associate with; they were the social & religious outcasts of the time. (2) Who were they?
Tax collectors: known as cheaters and traitors, and in Zaccheus’ case, physically disabled (1)
Sinners: impoverished, trafficked young women, prostitutes
And the scribes of[a] the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, “Why does he eat[b] with tax collectors and sinners?” And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” Mark 2:16-17
The sick: lepers, bleeding woman, paralytics
The Pharisees and scribes, or, the cool people at the time, believed these outcasts were physically and morally unapproachable (John 9:1-2) and diseased or disabled because of their sin. Jesus’ responded in a way that likely shocked these worldly people: “Truly I say to you that the tax-gatherers and harlots will get into the kingdom of God before you.”
Is your church full of outcasts?
Many churches do a noble job of contextualizing themselves to reach the young, the cool, and the famous. But we must always keep in mind that even the great apostle Paul did not attract many wise, noble, or powerful to the church he helped found in Corinth. And Paul’s reasoning--that God has chosen the weak to shame the strong--should encourage us to invite the outcasts of our world to Christ. We may find that many of them will indeed hear, believe, and bear much fruit.