The Foolishness of God

April Fool’s Day can be a pain as unfunny joke follows unfunny joke, but I’ve thinking about a friend’s remark about forgiveness which I thnk tells us something important about the foolishness of God. Forgiveness always precedes an apology — if it really is an apology, that is, not just an excuse to go over the original offence and apportion more blame. When someone apologises, it is because the grace of forgiveness has already been at work in their heart. When the Father allowed his Son to be nailed to the Cross in the greatest apology ever made to humankind, it was because he had already forgiven us all our sin. How rarely do we let that sink in! To be forgiven suggests, of course, that there is something to forgive, and most of us are reluctant to admit as much or will only acknowledge those things that don’t cause us too much inner scrutiny. Yet, even if we do marvel at the idea of God’s forgiving us, we may be puzzled by the idea of his apologising to us. I tremble on the brink of heresy here, but I’ll try to make my meaning clear in as few words as possible.

We often rage and rant at God for all the suffering there is in the world, the injustice, the natural disasters. Is God indifferent to these things? I don’t think so. Some are the result of human ignorance or malice; others are beyond our ability to predict or control. When Jesus bowed his head on the Cross all this was was redeemed, made sense of, forgiven, apologised for. We cudgel our brains over it, and rightly so. We are reluctant to admit that we have difficulty forgiving God for some of the things he has done, or for which we hold him responsible (not quite the same thing). Then we look at the Crucifix and have to think again. The tremendous act of forgiveness and reconciliation we celebrate on Good Friday is one that affects our lives here and now. What I call God’s apology sets everything right again between him and us. His humility frees us from pride and self-sufficency and those little pockets of anger and resentment we continue to harbour almost against our will. His foolishness is indeed a wisdom greater than any of which we ourselves are capable, just as his love and mercy exceed our own. No one likes being an April Fool, but to be God’s Fool, to mirror his love and forgiveness, isn’t that something worth striving for?

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9 thoughts on “The Foolishness of God”

  1. Thank you. I’ve always been sure that God has a sense of humour – and also my guardian angel. They must enjoy April Fool’s Day! He/she/they have played a few tricks on me already this morning ….. hiding things ….then I eventually find them exactly where I’d left them! Getting older (nearly 89) and living alone, it’s a great way of bringing a smile to my face. Please pray for me and my family.

  2. The Lord sacrificed His Son on the Cross not as an apology but as a constant reminder that His love for humankind was full and eternal. As the Saviour told the Pharisees, God wants us to love Him and our neighbour as ourselves. The grace, love, peace and freedom engendered by this simple precept is all powerful and liberating for our souls as well as our remaining life on Earth. This framework is there for us all. He was prepared to kill His Son to demonstrate the power and simplicity of this teaching. This ultimate sacrifice impacts for eternity.

    • Thank you for putting me right! However, I think you may have missed the point I was making or trying to make — my fault, although it is one I have touched upon in previous years. It probably needs further elaboration on my part. I always prefer to err on the side of brevity, but that isn’t always a good thing.

  3. It has been interesting in recent weeks to be engaged in a module on Healing and Wholeness. And a major part of that is forgiveness. Whether of others, or of ourselves for our past errors or omissions. We have the assurance of God’s forgiveness if we acknowledge our faults and failings, however it can be hard to forgive others, when the hurt can be so deep, dark and grievous, I recall the former Arch Bishop of Canterbury talking about it not being easy to forgive, and doing it too early can seem like cheap grace.

    But how much harder to forgive ourselves – how do we overcome guilt long buried and hidden – the burden could well follow us to the grave, unless we do something to deal with it before, while we can.

    How many lives are blighted by no being able or capable of forgiving or being forgiven? Prayers for others to be forgiven should be a part of our prayer life – it is in mine.

    And God might have a sense of humor, he must have as he took me a fool and has blessed my life by giving the opportunity to serve. Praise be to him.

  4. I’m sorry to say that a few readers have had difficulty with the point I was trying to make. It is entirely my fault for not writing clearly enough. However, I don’t think anything would be gained by my writing a long essay on the subject, but thank you for your comments both online and off.

  5. I have just spent the couple of weeks teaching eight year olds about God giving all i.e. Holy Week. They asked “Why did Jesus have to go through all that?” They also asked could God not have had a nicer plan?

    Very hard to get my answer across. I think I get the point you made – God can not want our suffering and death (or that of Jesus) so it must be essential to our eternal life. It is still unpleasant and shocking to face the cross and our own suffering. It does seem foolish (in many ways/to many people) that God would allow this and I am sure he would explain/apologise for/share with any suffering of every one of His children. Like any loving parent the suffering/death of a child is unbearable – but it has to be this way.
    I do not really know why and I ask myself similar questions to my eight year old pupils – and come up with far more feeble answers…

    Thanks Sister for being thought provoking at this time of year. These are difficult areas and pat answers, such as it is all God’s plan, do not satisfy.

    • Thank you, Joseph. I do not envy you your task! Children often see to the heart of a difficulty. The problem with our standard answers is, they are true — but they leave much that we have to tease away at trying to understand (which is what most of my blog posts try to encourage, if that’s not too pompous to say). I’ll keep your eight year olds in my prayers.

  6. I’ll come back to this post again, to think about it a little more.

    I’ve always found the nature of suffering something that didn’t challenge my faith. I remember writing an essay when I was 12 or so, where I argued that you couldn’t sympathise or relate to others if you never suffered yourself. Of course, the argument can get rather circular – why would you need empathy if no-one ever suffered – but that always seemed like a path to a very selfish, self-centred world.

    For me that view helped made sense of the Easter story (as far as I ever have) – God made it very clear that he did understand and relate to human suffering.

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