For, I think, God has exhibited us apostles last of all, as men condemned to death; because we have become a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men. We are fools for Christ’s sake (NASB1 Co 4:9–10a)
Let me start with a controversial statement: Christianity is NOT cool! Now, before you rip this paper up and call me a heretic, let me explain. What I mean is that Christianity is not cool in the eyes of the world. Generally speaking, the world hates Christians. And as we learned in chapter one of 1 Corinthians, they think that the gospel itself is foolishness and repulsive. Even Jesus said “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you” (John 15:18). Christians have historically been one of the most persecuted and oppressed people groups. Therefore, something that we need to come to grips with is the reality that in the opinion of the world, Christianity is not cool — This is Real!
However, if you look at the church culture of the last few decades, you will notice some who have tried to make Christianity “cool” in the eyes of the world. The thought is this: if Christianity looks cool then maybe more people will embrace it. The heart behind this thought is noble — it just isn’t biblical or realistic. Sure, thirty to forty years ago, with an evangelical president in office and mega-churches springing up everywhere, you might have been convinced that Christianity was finally being invited to eat their lunch at the cool table. But those days are long gone here in America.
Of course, even today we still see some groups trying to make Christianity more palatable to the eyes of the world. But in order to do this, the gospel itself is compromised. And in their pursuit of being cool in the eyes of the world, these groups often lose their effective and powerful witness because they sacrificed their core principles and beliefs.
So what is the result: A group of people who are still uncool to the world and also shallow in their faith and witness. Here is the real: Christians will never be invited to the “cool table” — As Paul wisely put it, “We are fools for the sake of Christ.”
But let me qualify all of this by saying something that might sound like an oxymoron given all that I have previously written: Christianity is the best and coolest way a person can live. The gospel is the coolest message a person can believe. Jesus is the coolest person who ever lived.
Now, hopefully most of you who are reading this will agree with that affirmation. Those of us who have come to know Christ personally after experiencing his grace, love and forgiveness, we define “cool” differently than how the world does. Being cool to us is living under the reality of who we truly are — sinners saved by grace — and not pretending to be something we are not — cool, hip, and popular.
The world will look at us and think we are strange and foolish. Unbelievers will think that we are naïve, brainwashed, and weak. Haters will call us bigots, intolerant, and old-fashioned. But we know that in the end there is nothing in this world worth pursuing and no worldly population or affirmation worth achieving. The coolest thing we can do is to pursue hard after Christ and be engaged in his mission of saving the world. To do this, we need to abandon the delusion that we can be cool in the eyes of the world and embrace the position that Paul himself took in verse 13, “we have become as the scum of the world, the residues of all things, even until now.”