For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing,
but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
~ 1 Corinthians 1:18
Today’s New Testament reading (1 Corinthians 1:18-31) offers one of those lessons, which — in my mind, at least — both comforts and challenges us as followers of Jesus. On the one hand, as the verse above makes clear, the message of the cross — the gospel of our salvation — unleashes the power of God in our lives, regardless of how ridiculous it might seem to those who have not embraced it. There will always be those who mock us for thinking that the brutal execution of an itinerant Jewish rabbi two millennia ago offers us not only a relationship with God, but also the sustaining strength of His Spirit, and the hope of sharing in His eternal kingdom (and when you stop and think about it, that is a rather outlandish claim). But let them mock. We have placed our trust in Christ crucified; and we believe that “the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength” (verse 25).
But on the other hand, the message of the cross cannot be divorced from the way of the cross. Trusting in Jesus as the source of salvation means not just embracing truths about Him. It means embracing Him. It means embracing the life that He both taught and modeled so that He could continue living it in us, which is another way of saying that we must embrace His “foolish kingdom:” in which we love enemies rather than hate them…in which we forgive rather than seek revenge…in which we strive after relationship with God and others rather than riches…and in which we forsake violence against others in order to engage in service to others.
Ironically, I’m convinced that if we did a better job of living by the way of the cross, more people would eagerly accept the message of the cross.
In our passage for today, Paul goes on to say: “But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him” (verses 27-29). However we understand the impact of the cross in our own lives, the Bible makes it clear that it is God’s gift to us — and not something that we “deserved” or “earned” by virtue of our intelligence, strength, or achievement.
May we embrace foolishness today. And in so doing, may we discover that the strength and wisdom of God are available to us, allowing us to follow in the way of our crucified Master.