The world has always been enamored with appearance. We love power, truly exult over prestige, and fawn over those with high, popular, or noted positions. The annual Hollywood Oscars ceremony and the ever-multiplying spinoffs of the event are cases in point. As one social observer notes, "Celebrities are those who are well known for their well known-ness." Endless hours are invested into analyzing every detail of the happenings and the who's who on the red carpet. What are people wearing? How glamorous are they? Who are they with? Is their popularity soaring or sinking? We are so immersed in these topics, which are given such serious attention and focus, that the sheer banality and vacuity often escapes us.
Perhaps the ultimate contrast to the world's chosen is God's choice of messengers. Would anyone have chosen Moses? Would anyone have chosen the twelve disciples? You can almost hear the crowd, the cultured despisers, responding to the likes of Hosea, Jeremiah, and John the Baptist: "Who, them? You must be joking!"
The life of Jonah is a great case study for showing just how often we misjudge and misread. If even a professional prophet could get things so wrong in terms of understanding God and those God chooses to bless, forgive, or call nearer, how will we be any different? Yet how often, and how tritely, we invoke the truth that "God's ways are not our ways," while simultaneously operating as if we have it all figured out. Like Jonah, we often feel we know exactly what should happen in any given situation and are more than ready to offer advice, correction, or input. Yet the frequency with which Jonah got it wrong, the people of Israel got it wrong, and we continue to get it wrong, should truly demand a measure of humility and introspection. What does God see in the lives of those God calls? What are we overlooking? What are we not seeing at all?
In his letter to the Corinthians and throughout many of his writings, the apostle Paul seeks to unpack the mystery of God's workings and to show that God's ways are truly other than what is considered the norm. Paul brings home not only the surprising content of the message and the unusual choice of the messengers, but more importantly, the unconventional way that God works. The apostle does not really say anything about why or how God chooses, but simply that God does so: "It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness, and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: 'Let him who boasts boast in the Lord'" (1 Corinthians 1:30-31).
To be a follower of Christ demands independent and courageous thinking and acting. It is often to go against the flow, to stand in an opposing manner, to resist what is the wisdom of the crowd. Paul's reminder of the basis upon which God chooses should disabuse us of our self-elevation. For God's choosing is not based on our credentials or qualifications but solely and centrally on Christ's. Hence, as Francis Schaeffer used to say, "There are no little people" in God's eyes. We are all sinners saved by and dependent on grace. Thus, we must constantly lay hold of what has been done for us and learn to rest in God's provision, wisdom, and care. We can also rejoice that even today God deliberately, with full knowledge, and real intention, chooses the unlikely, the outcast, and the least, overturning titles of power, success, and wisdom in a world with very different scales.
Stuart McAllister is regional director for the Americas at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.