as if they were madmen and fools

Tim Challies, by way of his blog, introduced me to some of Richard Sibbes‘ writing. Here is an excerpt that I can’t seem to shake (keep in mind this language is circa 1600).

It has been an old imputation to charge distraction upon men of the greatest wisdom and sobriety. John the Baptist was accused of having a devil, and Christ to be beside Himself and the Apostles to be full of new wine, and Paul to be mad. The reason is because as religion is a mystical and spiritual thing, so the tenets of it seem paradoxes to carnal men; as first, that a Christian is the only freeman, and other men are slaves; that he is the only rich man, though never so poor in the world; that he is the only beautiful man, though outwardly never so deformed; that he is the only happy man in the midst of all his miseries. Now these things though true seem strange to natural men, and therefore when they see men earnest against sin, or making conscience of sin, they wonder at this commotion for trifles. But these men go on in a course of their own and make that the measure of all; those that are below them are profane, and those that are above them are indiscreet. By fanciful affections, they create idols, and then cry down spiritual things as folly. They have principles of their own, to love themselves and to love others only for themselves, and to hold on the strongest side and by no means expose themselves to danger.

But when men begin to be religious, they deny all their own aims, and that makes their course seem madness to the world, and therefore they labor to breed an ill opinion of them, as if they were madmen and fools.

These words breathe the paradox that drives people crazy – that we [Christians] are freemen, though we seem slaves; that we are rich, though we seem poor; that we are beautiful, though we appear deformed; that we are happy, though we live in misery.

Why can the world not understand this divine reconciling? Because they “go on in a course of their own and make that the measure of all” and “have principles of their own,” all this mystical business seems inconsequential and silly. Their standard leaves no room for “others first” and “sacrifice,” unless it might benefit in the end.

“But when…”

Aren’t these great words?

With all the world charting their course in the same selfish direction, a boat changing direction will get the attention of the entire fleet. Sibbes uses “religious men” here in the same way we might use “true believer” or “follower of Jesus Christ” to designate the different standard a Christian uses to measure his life. Everything he/she was pursuing previous (and the value of those things) shifts immediately and joyfully to an object that makes no sense to the world. To set a course for an unseen destination with immaterial results sounds like bad business and poor planning.

It sounds like madness.

 We should not be surprised when the world misunderstands our obsession with eternity or our talk of the “Kingdom coming” or our less-than-five-figure aspirations. We should not be surprised, even, if the world manipulates our words to sound crazy and our gatherings to look strange.

We are the skin, living in these paradoxes every day. We deny our own aims and ask Christ to reveal His standard, that we might set our course to run against traffic [or completely solo] toward Him. We set our course and it looks like foolishness.

Our neighbors have dreamed up a reason why we are so generous, our co-workers have decided our cheer is fake, our boss is sure we are working hard just for the promotion, our estranged brother still doesn’t believe we want to see him just “because.”

The world may say our course is madness – that our aims our full of folly – but our reward is not won from the world. As we fix our eyes on Christ, the Author and Perfector of our faith, He will give us the same joy he possessed as He endured the cross.

What madness Christ must have possessed to have his face set so squarely toward Jerusalem? What foolishness must have surrounded Him as he humbly entered the city on a donkey? What absolute insanity he must have endured while claiming Himself King while on the cross?

Though the world count us as madmen and fools, God allows another miracle as He transforms our hearts to serve even those who consider us crazy. Christ asked the Father to “Forgive them, for they know not what they do” in the midst of His misery. At the height of His public shame, His love and compassion for those who considered him crazy only grew.

May our hearts swell with love for those who consider us as madmen and fools.

May we
let LOVE fly like cRaZy
when it makes no sense at all to the world,
because it makes perfect sense in light of the Cross.

6 thoughts on “as if they were madmen and fools

  1. I’ve got someone who considers me an madman and a fool at my blog right now, if you want to stop by and read our conversation in the comments.

    This was a beautiful post, you are very good at expressing your passion. It was very spiritual, connecting with a person’s spiritual sense as they read it (for me anyway).

    It’s so important that we combine rational Christian apologetics with spiritual preaching.

    God bless!

    1. Wow – that is intense! I guess I think that a person has to be ready to enter into a conversation, softened by the Spirit if you will. This person does not seem ready at all to do anything but argue. Sometimes it is ineffective and disheartening to continue in such a conversation. Those are just my thoughts….

      1. Yes, he is very argumentative, but that is what exists in the world today because Christians haven’t defended the faith enough, they haven’t engaged in Christian apologetics.

        1Pe 3:15 but in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you;

        Because the Christian church hasn’t used logic and science to defend the faith, Atheists haven taken over logic and science in our culture. That is why Hollywood is so secular, why the culture keeps getting more sinful. Children are taught in the public schools that we evolved and there is no God. So they act like it.

        Thanks so much for stopping by my blog and reading. It’s encouraging to share the current “culture war” with other Christians. God bless!

  2. Just some words of Inspiration I heard:

    Any sort of dream has to start somewhere. You can make a resolution any time of the year but the main reason people do it at the very beginning of the year is because it is easy to get into the pattern of thinking that anything is possible at that time. That this time everything I have failed to deliver, it will happen. I’m going to study, work hard, and even try to save money, I am also going to create every opportunity and go in to every door that it is opened to make my dreams possible. If one person has to work a little bit harder to achieve their goals is you. The fact of having a plan and have an idea where you are going to be makes you more successful than someone who just say they are going to do something. You need to allow yourself to see other people who have done what you want to do . But you need to figure out by your own path and how are you going to get what you want to do exactly. Because everyone’s dream is different, everyone’s direction is different. But you do not need to think in the things that hold you back, think in the things that you are going to overcome. The things you are going to solve and these problems will eventually get you where you want to be. Do not be discouraged! You got the power. You got it in you!

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