I’m counter intuitive all the time. I stay up later than I should and then am bummed when my kids wake up at the same time they always do. I forget to say please when telling Iggy to say please and I say things like “No, Iggy, we say ‘no thank you’.” I am counter intuitive in a foolish and often illogical way. Paul also speaks of counter intuitive living in the first reading, but his comes from wisdom in grace.
The second half of our selection from Corinthians contains these words, “we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels and men alike. … When ridiculed, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we respond gently.” This is Paul’s description of what life looked like for an apostle, ending with the very attractive, “We have become like the world’s rubbish, the scum of all, to this very moment.” He is describing the driving force of the early church. These are the ones that were traveling across the known world spreading the Gospel, founding churches, breaking down walls between Jew and Gentile, and opposing Jewish sanctions and Roman persecution. And for what? To become the world’s rubbish, some translations even render this ‘refuse.’ That seems awfully counter-intuitive, but they do it because of the giver, the gift, and so that others may receive.
As we look at these three I want you to hold this phrase in mind, the counter intuitiveness of grace. First, the giver. The apostles lived as they did, because that was how Christ lived. Christ not only called them to that counter intuitive ministry, He walked it first. He was and is the first and most counter intuitive. That call is not a relic of the past, but is also laid before every disciples. We are all called to bless when ridiculed; endure when persecuted; and respond gently when slandered.
Then there is the gift. The gift of Christ’s life in us, which means we are given eternal life, a place in the Father’s house as children, and the honor of being coheirs with Christ. What a gift! But we aren’t supposed to approach this gift like employees trying to earn a commission. We have been given the gift and are to live it out. The Apostles walked in the confidence of their faith and hope in the love of the Lord. We are called to do the same. We can think of disciples like Olympians. We are not in the Olympic tryouts seeing if we can make the cut. God’s grace put us in the Olympics and then He asks us to strive for the best. None of us have made it to the Olympics on our own. This is the point Paul is making in the first half of the reading. It is all grace.
Finally, disciples know that God’s grace is for everyone. We are in on a great secret, everyone’s Wonka Bar has a golden ticket in it! What we are trying to do is help them to open it, find it, and respond to it. This is where the counter intuitiveness of grace comes in. Not everyone sees this as a Wonka bar analogy. Instead it is easy to find the discouraged, the apathetic, the proud, the scandalized, and so many others that don’t see the Golden Ticket as a gift. That is why how we live our lives helps others reevaluate the Golden Ticket. We, through our modeling, can help others see that it is about so much more than rules, regulations, feeling self-important, or some faceless and heartless deity. We are called to live as the Apostles, to live counter intuitive lives so that others see what is offered to them and see that it is the same gift that we have already received.
Obviously, this starts by looking at grace in our own life, our own Golden Ticket. Do we see it as a gift or a burden? Do we see the demands of the Gospel as loving sacrifices or stringent prerequisites? Do we lover the giver? Do we realize we are already being given the gift? Are we ready to welcome others into the family?
Lord, where our answers fell short of Your example, please make our hearts more like yours.