The Madness of God
Certain quotes have a way of penetrating deep into oneself and changing one’s outlook. We don’t come across these quotes all the time, but when we do, they can be life-changing. One of these quotes for me comes from Archimandrite Zacharias of Essex. In a book of talks given by Archimandrite Zacharias, an Orthodox monastic, I came across a gem that lets me see both situations and people in a more positive light than I had before. It also showed me beauty in the way God works that I wasn’t attentive to before.
So just what is this quote?
“Someone who steals ten times a day might decide one day to steal only nine times, and this may be enough for God to enter in and remove from him his sinful ways. God’s love is madness indeed, but the madness of God is infinitely wiser than the wisdom of men. ”
– Archimandrite Zacharias
In our society which tends to breed pessimism and cynicism, both of which I have to fight in myself, it is much easier to see the nine times the person steals as opposed to that one time that they decide not to.
We like to look at the situation and think, “well if he’s stealing nine times and stops himself from doing it only once he must not care or want to stop.” We fail to remember that God’s love is, as Archimandrite Zacharias tells us, a madness that is “infinitely wiser than the wisdom of men.”
In my life, I have had situations where God worked through the one time I decided not to do something sinful. My ongoing, never-ending conversion in this world, is full of these situations where I decide not to sin just once, and that tiny space allows for God to transform something within me.
It is through this lens that a recently released Hip-Hop song gave me hope. As some of you will know, before joining the monastery, I made hip-hop music. I was involved in the vocals, the beats, and the recording aspects of it. I was deeply involved in it for many years, since the early 90’s, and am something of an armchair ‘historian’ of hip-hop as well. This means that I will occasionally see what the current production of an ‘underground’ hip-hop sounds like.
This post is not one to discuss the merits of hip-hop, to argue about if it qualifies as music, and so forth. It is also not to promote the song or to advise others to listen to it. It is simply to point out how Archimandrite Zacharias allows hope to be made visible even in hip-hop songs that most people look at with the same cynicism and pessimism that I do.
A recently released song by Cyhi the Prince has a controversial title, “No Dope on Sundays.” At the beginning of the song we hear a voice quoting Luke 5:32,
“I came not to call the righteous, but the sinners to repentance.”
The voice goes on to say
“They say gangsters don’t pray.
I beg to differ.
We pray every night.
We pray every night to make it out of these struggles.
We pray all the time to make it out of this hell we stuck in.
Real gangsters don’t wanna be in the streets.
We was stuck out here cause we ain’t got no choice.
Who gon’ pray for us?”
I’m going to pray for you!
The title of the song, along with the chorus, point us to think about the Sabbath. The rapper says that he does not sell dope on Sunday. He respects the Sabbath and says “when you out here dirty, this the day you do the laundry.” He repents on the Sabbath and still holds something sacred. This lets us know that he, like all of us involved in sin, is not beyond saving.
The next few verses discuss drug dealing, violence, and all the activities he is involved in from Monday through Saturday. They are not wholesome or moral activities. It always comes around though to this idea of not doing any of this on Sunday. The selling of drugs, shown as an addiction in itself, is one that he is trying to remove himself from, while still being trapped (for those in the know, the pun is intended).
“No Dope on Sundays” is an opportunity.
I see the way the artist still holds the Sabbath as sacred, while not doing so the rest of the week, as perhaps an example of this one out of ten times that someone refuses to engage in sin that Archimandrite Zacharias is talking about earlier in this post.
In the final verse on the song, we hear from another rapper that he is stopping selling drugs. This, to me, represents, the way God can work his ‘madness that is wiser than the wisdom of men’ through something as seemingly pointless as one stopping one day a week from selling drugs.
The final verse has lines that say,
“When I recognized what you did to your nose
I couldn’t justify what I did to my bro.
Fed an addiction, I just let it snow.
Failed my religion, I couldn’t let it go.
Fell in addiction, I just chased the glow.”
The last two lines of the verse are
“I wanna see you back up on your feet and that’s fa’sho’
The whole city know I’ve done enough so there’s no mo.”
This song gives me hope for people who I love and know, and for people who I don’t know, but love, who are caught in a life of crime and of sin. It gives me hope for myself, who may not be in a life of crime, but am constantly sinning and hoping that God will continue to use the times when I do not fall to penetrate deeper into my heart and bring me closer to Him.
Instead of seeing a song that contains bad language and talks about selling drugs, I see a song that talks about a desire to be removed from this. I see a person who may be at the very beginning stages of a transformation. I see a small bit of space opening up, by not selling drugs on Sunday. I see a message that might call drug dealers (Cyhi does flat out ask) to stop selling their drugs on Sunday and doing their laundry (repenting). I pray that this is the case at least. I pray that God’s madness/love finds a way to work in all people by finding their moment of strength in weakness, inhabiting it, and bringing about a positive change.
I pray for Cyhi, for all those involved in crime and sin, and for myself that God’s madness continues to work through my weakness. Please join me in prayer.
Pray for me.
I’ll pray for you.