Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.” (I Corinthians 1:26-31)
Divisions in the community of Corinth, where each thought they were better than the others, led Paul to say something about what should matter in the eyes of Christians. First, the apostle invites the believers of Corinth to look at their community: “Consider your call....” He invites them to notice that there are not many individuals among them who are important to society, nothing people usually appreciate.
Then he speaks of God’s choice; three times he says, “God chose....” God chose those who do not impress others, so we may understand that what is considered advantageous in society is indifferent in God’s eyes. God chose that which according to the usual criteria does not exist, so to speak, so that the usual criteria may cease to exist.
But the reversal operated by God’s choice has a second aspect: through God, that which previously did not exist comes into existence, finds its place. Those that society looked upon with contempt or indifference have their value in God’s eyes. “Because of him you are in Christ Jesus." In fact, he is the only one that counts, and it is through him and in him that all of us count.
God’s choice invites us to change our way of looking. If God has chosen those who are not usually appreciated, we cannot remain indifferent to them. What matters is not a particular quality they may or may not possess, that impresses us or does not impress us, but only what they are because of God in Christ.
We can also learn to take a fresh look at ourselves. What matters is not that individually or together—as a group, a community, a church—we find ways to impress others, but only that, because of God, we are in Christ. We do not need to claim any superiority over others or to assert ourselves in order to hide our weaknesses. Despite our shortcomings and failures, Christ is our success and fullness or, to say it with the words of Paul, he “has become our wisdom, righteousness, holiness and redemption.”
What Paul wrote to the Corinthians invites us to let God’s choice change what matters to us; to free from us the need for self-affirmation that divides, to be creators of unity; to learn to have a new way of looking that gives its place to each and everyone. That, according to the apostle, is how we glorify God.
In my community, do I see people who could be made more welcome? Who? Are there times where I could integrate myself more fully into the community?
What are the factors of division in my community? How can they be overcome?
What suggestions does this text offer us to give glory to God together with others?