The Foolishness of Love

By Joel A. Hess

“God is good and beautiful and happy, and exists in the most beautiful state. If then He comes down to men, He must undergo change, a change from good to bad, from beautiful to shameful, from happiness to misfortune, and from what is best to what is most wicked. Who would choose a change like that! (Contra Celsum, Origen, 4:14)

Celsus, the great second-century critic of Christianity, argued against the idea that Jesus could possibly be God. He doesn’t so much say it’s not possible, but that it’s ridiculous. To be sure, it certainly seems foolish and therefore makes God look foolish. And if God looks foolish, can He really be God?

Marcus Cornelius Fronto made fun of the “new” religion, writing that Christians worshiped the “head of an ass, the genitals of their father, and an executed criminal on a cross.” He also pointed out that Christians were made up of the dregs of society. Of course, perhaps the worst for him was how Christianity took advantage of hysterical and gullible women, as he referred to them (Early Christian Women and Pagan Opinion, Margaret MacDonald, pg. 58).

We all enjoy marveling over the babe in the manger, allowing it to find a cozy little place in our homes and heads. But it really is pretty ridiculous! God becoming man? And not just man, but a baby born to common folk? C’mon!

Paul knew this God in a manger/God on a cross stuff would seem pretty stupid to much of the world when he wrote, “but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles” (1 Corinthians 1:23).

Celsus asks a good question. Who would choose a change like that? Certainly not me, if I were God. I suppose it would be a God who is madly in love with His creation, even his creatures who screw everything up.

Love can make you do some really foolish things. It can cause you to stand outside your girlfriend’s house in the cold with a sign that says, “Will you go to the prom with me?” all the while she isn’t home to see it, but her parents are. It can cause you to wipe a green, snotty nose with your bare hands, or change a diaper that leaks all over the both of you. It can drive an almighty God to lay in a smelly feed trough and be goggled at by strangers. God’s love can put Himself on a cross between two criminals, on a public road for all to see, and a sign that mockingly says, “King of the Jews.”

Who would choose to do any of those things? God, who is crazy in love with us! He stopped at nothing to forgive us of our sins and remove the condemnation of death and hell! Merry Christmas!