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What kind of people does the Lord choose?

Paul told us in 1 Corinthians 1:26–31:

“For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord” (ESV).

This truth surprises me, because the people whom God chooses are quite different from those we choose to minister in our churches.

Recently this wonderful passage in John 20 came to my attention, about the person the Lord picked to be a witness to and announce His resurrection from the dead. I won’t present the entire text here, but here’s an outline:

Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that it was empty (vs. 1).

She ran and told Peter and John, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him” (vs. 2).

Peter and John ran to the tomb. They went inside, saw the tomb is empty and left (vss 3-10).

Mary stood outside the tomb weeping, looked inside the tomb, saw two angels, and had a brief conversation with them (vss 11-13).

She turned around and saw a man, but she didn’t know who He was (vs. 14).

She talked to the man, and when He spoke her name, she realized it was Jesus (vss 15-16).

Jesus gave her instructions: “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God’” (vs 17).

Mary went and told the disciples the glad tidings (vs. 18).

It’s impossible to ignore the scriptural reality that Jesus purposefully waited until Peter and John had departed before He made Himself known to Mary Magdalene. Why would He do that? Why would He pause until His disciples—two of those closest to Him—had left? And why would He choose a woman, a member of a gender class whose testimony at trial was considered suspect, to attest to His resurrection? This is the most important event in human history. Why didn’t He choose a person with power and influence and whose testimony would have been rock solid? Wouldn’t he have been able to spread the news more effectively? Wouldn’t he have had more resources to get that job done?

Let’s stop and think for a moment about how we do ministry today. Whom do we choose to proclaim good news and minister in our public services? Are they people who share in Paul’s list of attributes in 1 Corinthians 1:26–31? Are they foolish, weak, low and despised in the world?

Well, you may say, those people can do that outside there, out on the streets or wherever, but not in here.

Why is that?

We are convinced we know how to do ministry in our churches. We boast about promote what we have accomplished so people will be motivated to get on board. We want more individuals to get involved, and we ask for more money so we can “fulfill the vision” and “change the world.”

Why doesn’t God think this way? Why did He choose Mary Magdalene, of all people?

Paul gives us the answer to that question in the passage from 1 Corinthians referenced above: “So that no human being might boast in the presence of God.”

That we don’t think the way the Lord does shouldn’t surprise us, should it? After all, He said, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8–9 ESV).

It seems like a simplistic, senseless thing to say, but—God doesn’t think like us. At all. Unfortunately, we apparently are of the opinion that we are able to figure out how to do significant things better than He is.

All of this should make us uncomfortable. It’s so, so…counterintuitive. The way God accomplishes His purposes seems destined to fail, according to our understanding. It’s not how—sorry, but it’s true—the world gets things done.

And that realization should cause us to grieve.

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