I met Chuck Sereika a little over a year ago. I was introduced to him last year while watching the documentary “9/11: One Day in America” in remembrance of the 20th anniversary of the attacks on our homeland. If you watch the sixth episode of the show, you can meet Chuck, too.
He’s a gripping character. You feel immediately drawn into his life — not that there was much to it. In an honest confession Chuck admits that, at the time in his life, he was down and out. He was using drugs and drinking hard. On the morning of 9/11, he had slept in and slept through the attack. When he woke up, turned on the news, and heard that the towers had been hit and fallen, he says it didn’t even really bother him. He was disconnected and disaffected — checked out and numb. No one would mistake him for a hero.
But then a phone call from his sister prompted him into action. Chuck had prior training as a paramedic, so he decided to go down to the site and help. He says that he planned to go down to a triage tent and maybe use his training to bandage a few people, just so he could tell his sister that he had helped some.
And yet, he recounts, he ended up at the pile of debris itself and found himself walking out onto it to help look for survivors. Hours later, Chuck was working with Dave Karnes, a retired Marine, helping rescue people trapped under the rubble. He wound up deep down inside a 50-foot-deep hole in the debris that was full of smoke and fire, putting an IV in one of the few survivors pulled from the wreckage. He did this at great risk to his own life and totally against what he originally planned to do or even cared about.
Looking back on it, and sounding like he has since been converted, Chuck said: “I give myself no credit for any part of that rescue. God uses the weak to confound the wise. God uses the low, the low people of the world, to confound the wise. There is no way that I could ever turn around and say that it was me. I had no desire, no will, no strength, no training, no power to have accomplished what the Lord used me to do that night.”
He’s right. God does use the weak to confound the wise. God does use a message that sounds foolish to the world, but it is actually the most powerful thing in the world.
And we need to remember this as Christians. Not only that we are weak, but that God is strong, although the world sees us as weak and foolish.
Chuck was paraphrasing 1 Corinthians 1:27-29:
“But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.”
Just a few verses earlier, Paul writes this: “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor 1:18).
Weak and foolish. That’s how the cross sounds to the world. That’s how Christianity looks to the world. That’s what the world thinks of Christians. Of you.
By the wisdom and reckoning of this world, as followers of the cross of Christ, we are on a fool’s errand with a foolish message. This is something we must wrestle with, sit with, and take in, deep down into our core. We must embrace this reality. Make peace with it.
Let us welcome being weak and foolish messengers with a seemingly weak and foolish message because we do so in the service of the all-wise and all-powerful God.
If you follow Christ, the world will call you a fool. But God will call you faithful. Let me say that again: If we follow Christ, the world will call us fools. But God will call us faithful. And it’s God’s opinion that counts in the end.
And in the end, the so-called “foolishness” and “weakness” of God will prove wiser and stronger than the world.
Paul makes this point through contrast: Even the apparent foolishness of God, which isn’t really foolishness at all, is wiser than the world’s wisdom. Even the apparent weakness of God, a crucified King hanging on a cross, is stronger than human strength. It’s as if Paul is saying: The best of human wisdom and strength can’t even stand up against God on His off days — not that God has off days, of course, but it’s a powerful point.
It makes me think about Michael Jordan and the “Flu Game.” It was Game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals — the Chicago Bulls vs. the Utah Jazz in an epic showdown. And Michael Jordan gets sick; it may have been the flu, or it could have been food poisoning, but either way, he was in bad shape. But he plays anyway. He goes out there, despite being sick, and records 38 points, seven rebounds, five assists, and three steals, pulling the Bulls ahead in a series they would go on to win in Game 6.
Michael Jordan’s “sick game” was still better than most NBA players’ best game when they are healthy. That’s a dim comparison, but it makes the point. Just consider how much greater is the foolishness and weakness of God than the wisdom and the strength of the world? It is infinitely greater. It cannot even be measured.
For Christians today, we are facing a world that calls us fools for continuing to believe what the Bible has always taught. That men are men, women are women, and that you shouldn’t kill children in the womb. We believe that marriage and the family matter, and that rent-a-womb surrogacy is a perversion of God’s good plan for procreation. We believe marriage can only ever be between a man and a woman. We believe in a crucified but Risen King who rose up from the grave and is coming back again. And even though we can’t see Him, we know that God is real and He is the judge of all the earth.
It’s important to bear this in mind as the culture grows increasingly hostile. That hostility tempts us to compromise, to reach for the crown without being willing to take up the cross.
Be warned: The wisdom of the world will be appealing. It will tempt you. It can be sneaky. We can so easily just drift into running on the wrong operating system. The world’s wisdom infiltrates our lives like carbon monoxide: a colorless, odorless gas. By the time you realize you have been poisoned by it, it can be too late.
So, embrace being called a fool by this world if it means being called faithful by God.
As the martyred Christian missionary Jim Eliot reminds us, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” So we can be okay with being called a fool on this day because we know that we will be vindicated on that final day when the faith of “fools” is turned into sight.
Follow William on Twitter! @William_E_Wolfe
Ready to dive deeper into the intersection of faith and policy? Head over to our Theology of Politics series page where we’ve published several long-form pieces that will help Christians navigate where their faith should direct them on political issues.