The raggedy end of God's parade

A colorful picture formed as I was reading 1 Cor 4 this morning. In vv. 9-13, Paul speaks of a procession of God's people. Have you ever thought of God as a parade organizer? Well, he has put on this parade as a public display (in Greek the word is "theatron" -- we recognize it as the root of our word "theatre"). For whom did God put on this theatrical procession? People, angels, and all the world (v. 9).

Paul goes on to say that he thinks of apostles as the ones at the end of the procession. They are fools, they are weak, they are dishonored. They go hungry, thirsty, poorly clothed, beaten, and homeless. They are persecuted and slandered. As Paul puts it, they are "the scum of the earth" (v. 13). Being an apostle is not a glamor job!

In contrast to the apostles, the Corinthians are wise, strong, honored, and well taken care of. Paul pictures them as being in the front of God's procession. They want the place of honor, and they take it.

We would expect God's stars, the apostles, to have a better place in God's parade. Yet this is a parade in which the last are first, and the first are last. The trouble with the Corinthians' strategy is that their self-assertion lands them in what is actually the least honored part of the procession: the front.

It occurs to me as I read this paragraph of Paul's writing that the question for us is, which place do we take in God's parade? America is very much like Corinth in many ways. We are well off and powerful. We confidently assert our rights to have anything we think we deserve, and that usually includes honor, riches, and comfort. It is very un-American to allow oneself to become the scum of the earth. Thus, we face the question. Do we seek the glory of the front of the procession or accept a place at the raggedy end of it? It is a question of "success" versus surrender.

At the "successful" end of the parade we will find the Corinthians and other Christians who have received God's grace but also tried to hold on to worldly honor. At the raggedy end of God's parade we will find people like Paul, Peter, John, Barnabas, Junia, Mother Teresa, and others who have surrendered comfort and glory for the sake of Christ.

I don't know about you, but I face this question of success versus surrender every day. Today may we allow ourselves to be placed at the raggedy end of God's parade.


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