Many of us during our formal education knew someone who focused on an area of study, giving a mountain of time to it, and was willing to talk about it just about any time. At the same time, we weren’t at all interested in their “pet” topic. It didn’t make any sense to us, didn’t appeal to us, and perhaps we even thought it would be a complete waste of time and energy to study it.
This situation from the academic world parallels how many people interface and engage with the message that Jesus is the Savior of the world. A significant element of humanity, certainly in the US and even more so in Europe, believes and proclaims that the Christian message is foolish, retro, useless and actually an obstacle to human progress. If they only thought that the Christian message was just one of the many non-consequential old wives tales, that would be one thing. When, however, the Christian message is held to be an impediment to human progress, that results in antagonism against Christianity.
The phenomenon just mentioned is not new in human history. The author of some of the letters in the Christian Bible, the Apostle Paul, faced the same issue, as did his original readers – almost 2000 years ago! His proposal about dealing with the issue can be relevantly instructive to us. It is found in a small part of his first letter to the Christians in the city of Corinth, in Greece, chapter 1, verses 18-31. If you want to read them in an “Easy To Read Version” of the New Testament, click here.
Paul realizes that there is a group of people in the rich metropolitan city of Corinth who are convinced that 1) they themselves were powerful, wise and intelligent; 2) the religious message voiced by the Christians was foolish; 3) there was not adequate verification (wisdom and miraculous events) to the truthfulness of what the Christians said about Jesus; 4) the “foolish” Christian message was powerless to effectuate changes in people and produce a society that met humanity’s needs.
If this verdict was correct, clearly the Christians might as well pack their bags and move to an area where their “foolish” message would find resonance with a “foolish” population!! Let’s note that this appraisal of Christianity is not strange to our ears even now in our century.
How can accusations such as those Paul summarizes be addressed? Paul recognizes that the accusers were correct in saying that the Christians in Corinth were not the movers and shakers in society. They were not considered part of the intellectual circles. Nor were they influential people in government and economics. They weren’t children of nobility.
Paul recognizes that the Corinthian society would not have sought out Christian people for advice on how to improve Corinthian life, either individually or societally. The Corinthians had their formulas for success, and their parameters for measuring value. They had their strong people, their wise people, and their “in” group.
Becoming a Christian in Corinth would not elevate a person to a new social level, giving them clout or importance.
The Apostle Paul’s striking response to this very serious accusation against the truthfulness and value of the Christian message and people is that God judged things differently. Paul doesn’t locate the origin of the moral transformation of society within the status quo group. Rather, God uses the “outsider” (the lowly and despised – those who have no natural social clout [“those who are not”] ) to “nullify the things that are”, to turn things from moral wrong to moral right.”
Paul’s conclusion almost seems to come out of the blue – “Christians, you have nothing to boast about. You are “in” Jesus, who makes you righteous, holy and redeemed. Live humbly.” It is as if Paul were saying that “our hope, our sense of rightness, and our sense of having been rescued from moral chaos doesn’t give us anything about which we can be proud. What we can do is demonstrate humble service to those who have not yet understood that God uses the “weak” to show His goodness, His love, and His transforming power.
Paul is not saying that Christians should not intelligently present the truthfulness of the Christian message. But, he is saying that in addition we should be involved in “serving humbly”. Here are some ideas that you might want to consider. (they are an abbreviation of a list I found on line under the title “101 Easy Ways You Can Make The World A Better Place.”) It appears to me that these actions demonstrate both service and humility. It is hard to imagine they will be considered offensive by anyone. They are not the totality of what we “give” to the world, but they are part of what we give. I hope they stir your imagination.
- Play, genuinely play, with a little kid.
- Tell someone you love them.
- Use your blinker when you turn.
- Pick a stretch of highway. Walk along and pick up all the trash you can.
- Smile at someone. Just smile. Saying “Hello” often brightens a day too.
- Round up a few loose coins. Put them in the next charity box you see.
- Plant flowers.
- Search through your cabinets for a few cans of food you’ll probably never use. Donate them.
- Hold the door for someone.
- Pay a random stranger a compliment.
- If you have a car, give people rides.
- Volunteer your time to a suicide hotline.
- Volunteer your time as a mentor!
- Return a shopping cart to the corral or the store instead of leaving it loose or propped on a planter in the lot.
- Offer someone a mint or a piece of gum or candy.
- Take a child to the park or pool.
- Kiss or hug someone you love.
- Donate things you don’t use to your local thrift store.
- Bake cookies for someone; take donuts to work one morning.
- Clean house for someone you know who is too busy to keep on top of it.
- Babysit for parents who don’t get out much so they can have some time alone.
- If you see a piece of trash on the ground, pick it up.
- Knit, quilt or crochet a blanket and donate it.
- Make breakfast in bed for someone you love.
- Help someone with a heavy load.
- Boost the morale of someone close to you by telling them what you love about them.
- Hug a teacher and let them know how important they are.
- Look for ways to save a few extra bucks a month. Donate it.
- Shop at your local charity thrift store. The money you spend there helps others.
- If someone is tailgating you, let them pass and wish them well, without the anger.
- If there’s an accident or a potentially hazardous situation on the road dial 911 and tell them about it.
- If someone you love really likes something (a meal, a favor, etc.) give it to them when they least expect it.
- Wave to your neighbors.
- Open car doors for your driver or passengers.
- Give blood.
- Become an organ donor.
- Buy books for a library, daycare center or school.
- Slip a $20 bill anonymously to someone you know who is having financial difficulty.
- Create a public art contest for children.
- Share family recipes.
- Help someone with their homework.
- Put a quarter in someone else’s parking meter.
- Gather up your used batteries and electronics. Donate them.
- Volunteer some time to cheering people up at your local retirement home.
- If the person ahead or behind you in line at the store appears to need money help, buy them the items.
- Donate to a cause that helps families in third world countries
- Drop off your old glasses
- Turn the other cheek.
- Surprise people with a happy birthday email, card, text, etc.. It might be the only one they get!
- Be there for someone. Listen to their troubles.
- Stop for a person waiting to cross the street or merge into traffic.
- Pay the toll for someone behind you.
- Tape coins to a payphone with a note saying they’re for whoever needs them.
- Forgive a debt
- Adopt as a pen pal a soldier, inmate or someone who is down on their “luck.
- When waiting for your turn at a deli counter, swap places with someone who is in a hurry.
- Write a nice note to or about your waiter or waitress on the back of your bill.
- On a hot day, buy someone something cold to drink– on a cold day, get them something warm.