Manute Bol: A Fool for Christ

Manute Bol’s Radical Christianity
Jon A. Shields

Bol reportedly gave most of his fortune, estimated at $6 million, to aid Sudanese refugees. As one twitter feed aptly put it: “Most NBA cats go broke on cars, jewelry & groupies. Manute Bol went broke building hospitals.”

When his fortune dried up, Bol raised more money for charity by doing what most athletes would find humiliating: He turned himself into a humorous spectacle. Bol was hired, for example, as a horse jockey, hockey player and celebrity boxer. Some Americans simply found amusement in the absurdity of him on a horse or skates. And who could deny the comic potential of Bol boxing William “the Refrigerator” Perry, the 335-pound former defensive linemen of the Chicago Bears?

Bol agreed to be a clown. But he was not willing to be mocked for his own personal gain as so many reality-television stars are. Bol let himself be ridiculed on behalf of suffering strangers in the Sudan; he was a fool for Christ.

During his final years, Bol suffered more than mere mockery in the service of others. While he was doing relief work in the Sudan, he contracted a painful skin disease that ultimately contributed to his death.

Bol’s life and death throws into sharp relief the trivialized manner in which sports journalists employ the concept of redemption. In the world of sports media players are redeemed when they overcome some prior “humiliation” by playing well. Redemption then is deeply connected to personal gain and celebrity. It leads to fatter contracts, shoe endorsements, and adoring women.

Yet as Bol reminds us, the Christian understanding of redemption has always involved lowering and humbling oneself. It leads to suffering and even death.

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He Chose

[28] After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” [29] A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. [30] When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. 

– John 19:28-30

Some things are not our choice.  They just happen to us.  I was born in southern California.  I am a boy.  I am short.  I did not choose these things.

The cross is not a tragedy that happened to Jesus.  It did not surprise Him.  It was not something unfortunate, outside of His control.

On Good Friday, the crowd was not in control.  The Pharisees and scribes were not in control. Pilate was not in control.  Not even Satan himself was in control.  Jesus and Jesus alone was in control.

What does this mean?  It means you are loved.

Things that just happen to us don’t say much about what we value or what’s in our hearts.  My core value is not manhood or shortness.  It’s the things we choose that reveal what we really love.  What we choose to do with our time, money, vacation days, etc. reveal what we love.

Jesus chose all that happened to Him.  He did not have to die on a cross.  Some may say He had to because He’s God and God is supposed to do that, but it’s not true.  He had the power and right to do otherwise.  He would have been equally just, righteous, and good if He left us in our sin.

But He chose.  He chose to be flogged, mocked, rejected, and crucified.  He chose to become sin and bear the wrath of God in our place because He loves us.

The cross tells us that sin deserves death.  It tells us our Lord suffered terrible.  And it tells us that we are loved by the God of all creation.  Jesus proved it by choosing the cross.

Waste

Watchman Nee

[3] And while he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he was reclining at table, a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over his head. [4] There were some who said to themselves indignantly, “Why was the ointment wasted like that? [5] For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they scolded her. [6] But Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. [7] For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them. But you will not always have me. [8] She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial. [9] And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.”

– Mark 14:3-9

The Lord has ordained that the story of Mary anointing Him with the costly ointment should always accompany the preaching of the gospel…

Now we must look at the question from two angles, that of Judas, and that of the other disciple. They all thought it to be a waste. To Judas, who had never called our Lord the Lord, everything that was poured upon Him was waste. Even water would have been waste. To the world, the service of the Lord, and our giving of ourselves to Him is pure waste. “Such and such a man would have made good in the world if he were not a Christian,” is a sentiment that is frequently expressed. For anyone with natural talents to be a Christian, to serve the Lord, is deemed to be pure waste…

Today, even amongst Christians, there can be found much of that spirit that wants to give as little as possible to the Lord, and yet to get as much as possible from Him…

That my usefulness should be brought to the full is not what the Lord is after, but His concern is rather with my position at His feet and my anointing of His head. What I have as an alabaster box, the most precious thing, my whole life. I give it all up to the Lord. It seems as if it is a waste, but that is what He is after…

Further, the Lord said, “Wherever the gospel shall be preached, this story shall be told.” Why? Because the gospel is meant to produce this. The gospel is not primarily for the satisfaction of sinners. The gospel is preached that everything may be to the satisfaction of the Son of God…

O friends, what are we after? Are we after mere usefulness, as those disciples were? They wanted to make every penny of that three hundred pence go to its full length. They wanted to be used themselves. If only we can please Him, surely that should be enough.

No Place for Sacrifice

No Place for Truth
David Wells

Interpersonal relationships inevitable involve conflicts of interest that can be resolved only by compromise and sacrifice.  Self-fulfillers place a premium on such relationships, and yet their guiding concern for self-fulfillment, their devotion to self-interest, would seem almost to guarantee that they will not be successful in maintaining them.

Genesis 22

[1] After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” [2] He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” [3] So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac. And he cut the wood for the burnt offering and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. [4] On the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place from afar. [5] Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you.” [6] And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son. And he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So they went both of them together. [7] And Isaac said to his father Abraham, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” He said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” [8] Abraham said, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So they went both of them together. 

– Genesis 22:1-8

The Lord instructs Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac. Isaac was miraculously born to Abraham when he was 100 years old. He is very much the son whom Abraham loves. Yet Abraham obediently takes his son to Mount Moriah and prepares to sacrifice him there.

juan_de_valdes_leal_-_the_sacrifice_of_isaac_-_wga24224But why?  Is Abraham just resigned to the fact that he has to obey God since He’s God? Abraham is aware that Isaac is a gift directly from the Lord. Perhaps, he reminds himself of Job’s words: “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21b).

I believe Abraham is not driven by resignation, but by hope. Prior to Isaac’s birth, the following exchange between Abraham and God took place in Genesis 17:18-19:

[18] And Abraham said to God, “Oh that Ishmael might live before you!” [19] God said, “No, but Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his offspring after him.

Abraham remembers the promise of God. He knows that God can be trusted. Abraham does not know how God can establish a covenant with Isaac if he is dead.  Abraham does not know how God can establish an everlasting covenant with Isaac’s offspring if Isaac passes away before he even has any offspring.  But Abraham knows that God is not a liar and He will do what He says.  Perhaps God will raise Isaac from the dead.  Perhaps God will provide a sacrificial lamb.  Ultimately, it doesn’t matter how God does it, but He is certain to fulfill every word.

Genesis 17

[9] And God said to Abraham, “As for you, you shall keep my covenant, you and your offspring after you throughout their generations. [10] This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your offspring after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised. [11] You shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you…”

[23] Then Abraham took Ishmael his son and all those born in his house or bought with his money, every male among the men of Abraham’s house, and he circumcised the flesh of their foreskins that very day, as God had said to him. [24] Abraham was ninety-nine years old when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin. [25] And Ishmael his son was thirteen years old when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin. [26] That very day Abraham and his son Ishmael were circumcised. [27] And all the men of his house, those born in the house and those bought with money from a foreigner, were circumcised with him.

– Genesis 17:9-11, 23-27

God dictates to Abraham the sign of belonging to Him – circumcision.  The sign is both permanent and painful, yet at 99 Abraham does not hesitate.  Abraham is not interested in delaying, calculating the cost, or taking time to pray about it.  He knows what it is to belong to the Lord, and he is eager to bear the mark, aware that it involves temporary pain.

We live in a culture that aims to get as much as it can for as little cost or labor as possible.  What we will hopefully learn before too many years pass is that there is very little worth having that involves neither cost nor labor.  The best things tend to have the highest cost.  Yet if they are truly everything they say they are, they make that cost forgettable.  One such thing is belonging to the One True God.  It is everything He says it is.