L’amour de Dieu est folie! This French phrase translates, “The love of God is folly.”
Brennan Manning in his book “The Ragamuffin Gospel” says that on Easter morning in France you’ll see this phrase posted on the side of buildings, busses, and houses, and graffitied on sidewalks. The French sing it in their churches in worship and use it as a greeting when they wave to the neighbors. The love of God is folly. God’s love is extravagant.
In the season of Easter, we are remembering the profound truth that Jesus Christ, who was crucified and buried in a sealed tomb with Roman guards outside, is now risen from the dead never to die again. Death could not hold Him.
Is God’s initiative to send His Son into the world in love to save us and invite us to trust Him, a fool’s mission? It does sound a little crazy that an all-powerful God would be born taking on the limits of humanity. He then would live a perfect life, reveal Himself in signs and wonders and miracles, teach about the kingdom of God, then face false charges, be arrested and crucified, though He was perfect. It seems illogical to take on the sins of all humanity and then be raised from the dead in victory to proclaim the forgiveness of sins to all who believe and the invitation to reconciliation in the love of God.
Some say the love of God is folly. It is a fool’s mission because it’s illogical, irrational, and ill-advised. Perhaps even a wasted effort.
The psalmist says, “The fool says in his heart there is no God” (Psalm 14:1). Contemporary philosophers might say it this way: The value of God is dead. It’s as if some have concluded God is irrelevant. Could it be the German philosopher Feuerbach, who lived in the 19th century, was correct when he said God is the projection of human fears? That God didn’t create us, but men created God in order to placate our own fears because of our weaknesses and limits? Is God just a figment of imagination to comfort our terrorized souls? Is Jesus alive from the dead? The truth of Easter’s message is the heartbeat of God’s revelation to the world. Paul said, “If Jesus Christ has not been raised, than your faith is worthless and you’re still in your sins” (I Cor. 15:17).
Ken Davis tells the story of a woman who saw her German Shepherd shaking the life out of a neighbor’s pet rabbit. Her family didn’t get along well with the neighbors, and she knew this would be a disaster. So she grabbed her broom and pummeled the dog until it finally dropped the dead rabbit from its mouth. Seeing the dead rabbit, she panicked. She grabbed the rabbit, took it inside, gave it a bath, blow dried its hair to its original fluffiness, combed its fur until it looked alive again, and then snuck into the neighbor’s yard and propped it up so it looked alive.
An hour later, she heard screams from next door. She went outside and asked what was going on. The neighbor woman said, Our rabbit! Our rabbit! He died two weeks ago, and we buried him. Now he’s back!
This is a funny and absurd story. Everybody knows dead rabbits don’t come back to life. From a human logic standpoint, we’d also assert that when human beings breathe their last, they also don’t come back to life. But the truth of the message of Easter says, Jesus Christ, who was crucified on the cross for the sins of the world – for my sins – was raised from the dead never to die again.
In the message of Easter in Luke 24, the women went to the tomb to anoint Jesus’ body. They found the stone rolled away and the tomb empty. Two angels told them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? Jesus isn’t here. He is risen, just as he said.”
The disciples, when the women told them what they experienced and what the angel said, believed their words to be nonsense, foolishness. Luke, the physician actually uses a medical term for nonsense. It could be translated, the babbling words of someone who has lost their mind. The love of God is folly. The way in which God has revealed Himself to us in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ saving all who believe is foolish. It’s illogical. it’s irrational. Some people would say it is a wasted effort. But it’s our hope.
We know love can be risky. God loves us – God loves the world knowing the risks. Love can be rejected and not reciprocated. Love can meet indifference. Love might meet rebellion like a child who ungratefully disobeys and disrespects his parents despite the parents’ love for the child. This is a pretty clear picture of my own sinfulness. I ignore the love of God when I choose my own way. I fall into my own foolish ways like a rebellious child.
Love is risky because it can meet unfaithfulness in contrast to the beautiful faithfulness of Jesus Christ when He went to the cross and said, “It is finished,” then died. My life of faith is one of continual failure and unfaithfulness.
Love also can be risky because it can be met with unbelief. Then, even though God’s love and power and life are real, His initiative of love cannot lead to life shared without faith. I want to tell you again today, Jesus Christ is risen from the dead. The love of God is folly because it is extravagant as it is lavished upon us.
When my wife Denise and I were a young married couple, we visited my grandmother, Anna Laaveg, in North Dakota. My grandma would always try to make those who visited her a little fatter. So as we sat down at her kitchen table, she placed a plate with a large piece of cake, two doughnuts, and two cookies in front of Denise. My wife took a cookie off the plate, placed it on a napkin, and handed me the plate. “No, no, no,” my grandma said. “This is for you!” Way more than she needed. Extravagant. The love of God is like this. It is lavished upon us, poured to the brim, and filled over.
• God’s love is foolish because it gives up all power in order to take on limits and become a servant to us. Jesus’ blood on the cross washes us clean.
• God’s love is foolish because He invites us to bathe in His grace and begin life again.
• God’s love is foolish because He forgives every rebellious and immoral deed we’ve done and reconciles us back into His arms to share life. Remember Jesus said, “Father, forgive them. They don’t know what they’re doing.”
• God’s love is foolish because He takes on weakness and vulnerability and finds us in our darkness to embrace us in our brokenness.
• God’s love is folly because He descends to wherever we are, finds us where we have fallen and where we have wandered off and never gives up pursuing us until He holds us in His love.
• God’s love is folly because He heals our destructive attitudes and patterns of behavior. Often I get stuck in stinkin’ thinkin.’ I become hypercritical, and I can let my tongue wag around in gossip.
We are all addicted to something. We chase material things that cannot give us life. Yet the Spirit of Jesus was raised from the dead and can pour power into us to transform our distractive patterns into newness of life.
• The love of God is folly because it gives us hope for a totally new future. Our future does not have to be a continuation of our past failures.
• The love of God is folly because He brings life to all our dead places, to our broken relationships, to failed marriages, to jobs that ended, to dreams that died. Jesus raises us up to new life.
• God’s love is folly because it is undeserved and unconditional, not based on moral perfection, not changing. Even if we are less than we ought to be.
• God’s love is unconditional, not based on our zeal or our performance. Love always yearns for relationship.
I have heard it said, God is always a gentleman, so He never forces Himself on us, yet patiently waits, offering us His love with open arms so we can understand His heart, run to Him, and let Him embrace us.
John Ortburg tells the story of a friend who spent years of her life living far from God. Over time, she realized the limitations of her own self-sufficiency and pride. She felt she needed more information about God before she could commit her heart to Him. So she spent a year studying God and asking questions. After a while, she realized her issue was no longer a lack of information, but a commitment issue. She had never actually surrendered her life to God, because she knew that if Jesus was raised from the dead, that fact changed everything.
One day, as she stood in the kitchen of her home and looked across the threshold into the living room, she prayed out loud, “God, in a moment I am going to step across this threshold. As I do this, the step will represent my life totally surrendered to you. I commit my life to you, Jesus. From this moment on, in my periods of doubt or moments of struggle, I will remember that I have surrendered my life to you, Jesus, the source of life and the fountain of grace.”
• The love of God is folly because it is never-ending.
So today we again rejoice in the truth that God still comes by His Holy Spirit. I think about Paul’s prayer to the saints in Ephesus, “I pray God’s Spirit would strengthen you in your inner person so Jesus Christ might dwell in your heart by faith, and you, being rooted in His love, may know and understand . . . the love of Christ for you” (Eph. 3:16-19). Amen.
Pastor Lee Laaveg