On Easter morning in France, “L’amour de Dieu est folie” is posted on the side of buildings and buses; graffiti artists draw it on sidewalks and lamp posts. The French even use it as a greeting to their neighbors. It translates to: “The love of God is foolishness”—foolish as in extravagant, boundless, beyond reason. Because what is God’s immense love for us, but sheer foolishness? We flawed and sinful people, who hurt one another time and time again?
For the first time since 1956, the holidays of Easter and April Fool’s Day (if you can call April Fool’s Day a holiday) fall on the same day: Sunday, April 1st. The origin of April Fool’s Day goes way back. Some think it originally referred to changeable spring weather, when a warm and sunny day can “fool” us into thinking the cold is over. Others point out that New Year’s Day used to be celebrated in early spring, and then, in the 1500s, was switched to January 1. Gullible people around that time were told April 1 remained the start of the new year—and they, the “April Fools,” believed it.
Here we are in 2018, still spending the first day of the fourth month making fools of ourselves and each other. Wild news stories are presented as fact (the BBC once showed film of a supposed harvest of spaghetti trees). And school children still pull pranks.
Easter, in contrast, is the day Christians recall the resurrection of Jesus. It is a deeply spiritual celebration of new life. While a joyful day, it isn’t known as a real knee-slapper.
As a child, one of my favorite holidays was Easter. I loved coloring eggs and jellybeans, oh, and Jesus, too. My hands-down least favorite holiday was April Fool’s Day, when classmates would pull silly pranks that usually ended up just embarrassing the pranked person (me). A day combining the two seems odd. But then I thought more about what these two concurrent holidays share in common, and I was inspired by the French concept of the “foolishness” of God’s love, celebrated at Easter.
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The word “fool” can be defined in several ways. One definition is an incredible, even irrational fondness for something or someone (“I’m a fool for you, baby!”). Christians could certainly be considered fools for Jesus. In another way, we can be seen by the world as foolish because we have faith. St. Paul touched on both of these in his first letter to the early church in Corinth. He criticized the Corinthians for their pride and boastfulness in this ironic verse: “We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ; we are weak, but you are strong; you are honorable, but we are despised.” They saw themselves as wise, strong and honorable, and lost sight of the humility that Christians should have—and the sacrifices they were called to make as disciples.
Jesus himself was seen as foolish by many during his lifetime. The itinerant teacher and healer said and did some pretty outrageous things, after all. He talked about the upside-down Kingdom of God, where the proud are made low, and the humble exalted. He made one of the hated Samaritans the hero of his most famous parable. He antagonized the religious leaders by pointing out their hypocrisy. He claimed outright to be the Messiah, the chosen one of God—considered blasphemy and punishable by death. He surrendered to that violent death by crucifixion without protest. And Christians believe he overcame death, for the love of us, by his Easter resurrection…surely something that flies in the face of common sense.
Is it foolish to love as I believe God loves us? At what point would I stop loving someone who rejected me repeatedly? There is no such end point for God, I believe…and that is the most wonderful kind of foolishness of all.