Speaking Of Life 3015 | The Opposite Game
I used to be a teacher, and one technique I learned that helped kids understand antonyms was the “Opposite Game.” The game involved using flashcards with words like “hot,” and the first student to answer with an appropriate opposite, like “cold,” would get a point. The idea was that by helping students understand what a word was not, they would better understand what the original word means.
In the Bible, the writers sometimes use opposite examples called contrasts, exaggerations called hyperbole, and other literary techniques to make their point. The apostle Paul used “The Opposite Game” in his first letter to the Corinthians to help them understand what God’s wisdom is not—so they could grow in their awareness of what God’s wisdom truly is.
Paul begins by pointing out how the idea of Christ on the Cross seems silly to those who aren’t interested in pursuing a relationship with God, but to those who are interested, the Cross portrays the love of God for all humanity. He writes,
For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe.
1 Corinthians 1:21 (NRSV)
One translator said God was turning conventional wisdom on its head in order to expose so-called experts as crackpots. In other words—opposites.
Paul continues using opposites to show how God’s way is completely different—“opposite”—to the way humanity thinks. He points out that the Jews were looking for miracles and the Greeks were searching for wisdom in the philosophy of the day. To both groups, the idea of self-sacrificing love on the Cross was not only the opposite of a miracle, it was absurd. Paul shows how God’s way of love, evidenced by Christ on the Cross, helps us think beyond our limited human scope:
but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.
1 Corinthians 1:24-25 (ESV)
Human beings tend to put God in a box—one that looks like what our human wisdom dictates as reasonable and prudent. God’s love for humanity is the opposite of reasonable and prudent. It is lavish, excessive, and strong—even as it is self-sacrificing. Paul wanted the Corinthians to understand that the truth of God’s being was the opposite of humanity’s typical way of loving and living.
Learning about opposites helps kids understand the meanings of words more fully. Human love is often finite and self-seeking, but God’s love is infinite and self-sacrificing. Considering how God’s way of moving in the world contrasts with our own helps us understand how deeply we are loved. We are safe in the certainty that God’s “opposite” kind of love will never let us down or let us go.
God’s love, evidenced by Christ on the Cross, is stronger and deeper than anything you can ever imagine.
I’m Michelle Fleming, Speaking of Life.