How does the world see you? Have you ever been accused of being crazy? God’s people have often been misunderstood and sometimes maligned by the incumbent society.
There are three occasions in the N.T. when we read of the conversion of Saul of Tarsus, who is later more well known as Paul, the apostle. One of those accounts is found in Acts 26, as Paul, now a seasoned apostle on trial in a Roman court, makes his defense before a Roman official named Festus, and King Agrippa in Caesarea.
Paul stood up and defended his actions in Jerusalem by recalling before Festus and Agrippa his former life as a Pharisee, and how Jesus had appeared to him on the road to Damascus. He spoke boldly of His conversion to the Way, and his confident faith in the fulfillment of OT prophecy and Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.
- Acts 26:22-24 – Therefore, having obtained help from God, to this day I stand, witnessing both to small and great, saying no other things than those which the prophets and Moses said would come — 23 that the Christ would suffer, that He would be the first to rise from the dead, and would proclaim light to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles.” Agrippa Parries Paul’s Challenge 24 Now as he thus made his defense, Festus said with a loud voice, “Paul, you are beside yourself! Much learning is driving you mad!”
- The word for “mad” here does not mean angry, but comes from the word from which we get the word “maniac” Festus was convinced that Paul was crazy. God’s faithful servants have often been accused of being mad, or crazy.
I. God’s Crazy People: Does it bother you when other folks think you are crazy for serving God?
A. Turn to 2 Kings 9 – Elisha sent one of the prophets (from the school of young prophets) to tell Jehu that he was to become the next king of Israel, and to anoint him. The young prophet faithfully did what Elisha commanded. When he arrived, Jehu was sitting among his military comrades (captains), and the prophet took into the house alone to tell him the news and anoint him. When he finished, and Jehu returned to his friends, they ask Jehu, “Is all well? Why did this madman come to you?” (9:11) The prophets dressed differently and were often found talking about things that others did not understand. They were considered by some to be crazy. Pulpit Commentary says the word here means “scatterbrained”; Another commentary says … soldiers like them very readily concluded such persons to be crack-brained, not only from the sordid negligence of their personal appearance, and their open contempt of the world, but from the religious pursuits in which their whole lives were spent,… (from Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary)
B. Christ Himself was considered to be crazy by some of the people of his day.
- His enemies accused him of being out of his mind. They said, “You have a demon” (John 7:20, marginal reading: “You are crazy.”)
- Later they said, “Say we not well that thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil.” (John 8:48, marginal reading: “You are crazy.”
- In vs. 52 of chapter 8 they said, “Now we know that thou hast a devil.” (“You are crazy.”)
- Later they said, “He has devil and is mad.” (“He is possessed of a demon and is crazy. “) (John 10:20.)
- Even Jesus family questioned His mental stability. Mark 3:21 – When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.” (NIV)
C. It should not surprise us if some people think we are crazy nuts. The apostle Paul recognized what others thought of him, but he was willing to accept the characterization for the sake of God’s work. 2 Corinthians 5:13 – 13 For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; or if we are of sound mind, it is for you.
II. Characteristics of Crazy Christians: Why do people characterize us this way? What makes people think we must be crazy?
A. Single Focused Devotion: The mentally ill are often characterized by being obsessed with a single idea. They have difficulty changing their focus from one thing to another. Often the world calls these folks “fanatics”.
1. God requires a single focused devotion, and it translates into a character that is misunderstood and maligned by the world.
- You mean you go to church services three times in a week? You make you r children miss sports or other activities for a Bible study? You try to do everything the Bible says, no matter what?
2. Paul was possessed of one great idea— He wrote to the Corinthians, he said, “For I was determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” (1 Cor. 2:2.) He was totally devoted to preaching Jesus to others. This he did before King Agrippa and Festus, and at every opportunity. Even when givien the opportunity to defend himself and prove himself innocent of the false charges brought against him by his enemies, he chose to preach Christ and him crucified. Crazy.
3. Christ was possessed of one great propelling idea—to do his Father’s will. To his disciples he said, “My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work.” (John 4:34.)
- After physically clearing out the moneychangers from the temple, Jesus’ disciples were intrigued by this somewhat “dangerous” devotion to the cause. His disciples were moved apply OT scripture to describe Him : John 2:17 – Then His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for Your house has eaten Me up.” Barnes says that the phrase eaten me up means … Hath absorbed me, or engaged my entire attention and affection; hath surpassed all other feelings, so that it may be said to be the one great absorbing affection and desire of the mind. Crazy
B. Other Worldly Pursuits: The world will consider you crazy if you do not place value on the things that others treasure. If you make decisions and sacrifices based upon spiritual goals and show little interest in getting ahead materially, they will call you mad.
1. In Acts 26 Festus had no way of assimilating Paul’s value system and world perspective. Why was he defending himself by talking about “heavenly visions” and repentance, and a resurrection. This was the talk of a crazy man, who had read too many scrolls.
a. If you talk about the Bible and Jesus when everybody else is talking about sports and the economy, they will think you are strange. If you give up material gain to attain a spiritual goal, they will think you are mad. Would you advise a young Christian to give up a good job so he could attend a Bible class or worship every Sunday? To throw out a perfectly good TV to help save his children?
2. Paul had no interest in worldly honors and material possessions. He said that if any man had right to trust in material things he had that right because of his lineage. But he said, “What things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ… for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ.” (Phil 3:7-8)
3 . Jesus was offered all the kingdoms of the world, but turned it all down because of the words of a verse from God’s law. (Matt. 4:8-10.)
C. Lack of Fear or Intimidation: Have you ever seen the fellow on the street preaching that the end is near? What is your first assessment? He is crazy. Not just because you do not think he is right about the end of time, but because he is preaching fearlessly in the streets.
1. God’s people have often been considered crazy because they are not afraid to be different. They are not intimidated by that which intimidates others (being isolated, embarrassed, or marginalized)
- Crazy David walked fearlessly out to face a giant of a man. Doesn’t he know what is going to happen to him?
- Elijah faced 450 prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel
- Daniel’s 3 friends defiantly refused to obey the king’s orders (that’s crazy; somebody needs to talk to them)
- As a defenseless old man Daniel prayed to God with his window open so that all his enemies could see.
- 2 Tim 1:6-8 – Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. 7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. Not Ashamed of the Gospel 8 Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God,
III. A Call to Madness: The ironic element of our discussion is that those who choose to follow Christ are actually the sanest people on the planet. Jesus characterized the worldly, disobedient person as blind, as sheep without a shepherd, foolishly going down a road to self-destruction. Who is really mad?
A. If I choose to follow Christ and I am wrong about everything I believe (there is not God, salvation or judgment) in the end what have I lost? I have still lived a fulfilling and rewarding life following the example of Christ.
B. But if I ignore God and His word, and I am wrong about it, what do I lose in the end? I lose it all. Nothing I have done will have meant anything good, but will end in an eternity of God’s wrath. That is Crazy!
Conclusion: Don’t be afraid to be called crazy. Sometimes being called crazy means you are sanest of all. It may mean you belong to God.
1. They are people who are obsessed with the one idea of doing God’s will. They seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness. (Matt. 6:33.) They deny themselves; they take up the cross daily in order to follow Christ. (Luke 9:23.)
2. They are people who are characterized by burning zeal and devotion. They are determined to preach Christ to every soul who will listen. They live to seek the lost.
3. They are people who seek the spiritual over the physical. They sometimes make enormous sacrifices to attain spiritual goals. They look not at the things which are seen but at the things which are not seen, not at the temporal but at the eternal. (2 Cor. 4:16-18.)
4. They are people who have no fear of being different—in fashion, in speech, in conduct, in religion. They realize that they are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people, that they may show forth the praises of him who called them out of darkness into his marvelous light. (1 Pet. 2:9.)
5. They are people who speak strange things. They speak the very words of the Bible to a lost world. They say that there is one church, and that it is all sufficient. (Eph. 1:22,23.) This seems strange to many. They say that baptism is essential to salvation. (Mark 16:16; Acts 2: 38; 1 Pet. 3:21.) This seems strange to many. They speak as the oracles of God, and such language seems strange to the world. They are called mad, but they are mad for God. Come and be a crazy Christian.