Monday, January 31, 2011

A meditation on 1 Corinthians 1:18-31

The Foolishness of the Cross

What do we do when God’s way seems like foolishness to us?

Scripture tells us that divine wisdom is often considered foolish by our human standards. Verse 18: "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."

Lord, I would never call your way foolish! But really, how often have I struggled with just those same thoughts – God, how could you? God, why…? You just aren’t making sense to me Lord.

One well-known theologian looked at God’s revelation and said, “You know what? I just can’t believe that… it is an affront to my rational mind.” And so he didn’t believe. And he promoted that unbelief as wisdom, and God’s revelation as foolishness. The world's media loved it, and many followed him, to their own coldness of spirit.

No, we wouldn’t do that. We wouldn’t be that arrogant, would we? But honestly, haven’t we struggled with God’s way – when it went counter to our own wishes, thoughts and intuitions?

When the cross hits on a personal level, it’s tough. I must confess that some of the hardest periods of my life have been when I can’t make sense of God’s ways, and answers seem far away. I've seen friends walk away from faith whenever they cannot understand tragedy or trial. And I don't mean that critically, but as a fellow human... it’s tough, isn’t it?

Verse 23 says that Christ crucified is a ‘stumbling block’ to Jews and ‘foolishness’ to Greeks [Gentiles].
A stumbling block for the religious: The image of a stone that makes one stumble… how can a man on a cross be a blessing for the world?
And foolishness for the non-religious: literally, “scandalon" [σκανδαλον]… the word from which we get scandal!

Two images: A stone of stumbling and a great scandal; one huge question: How can this stumbling block, this embarrassment, this scandal, be a sign of God’s wisdom?

It is so counter-intuitive for humans.

Here we are confronted with the question that will not go away: what do we do when the ways of God do not accord with our best wisdom? What do we do when God’s plan seems like foolishness to our normal modes of thinking and conventional wisdom?
Do we give up on God’s plan as something less than ours? Do we choose, unconsciously perhaps, to cling to our own wisdom and find fault with God’s wisdom – mere foolishness?

It is the stone of stumbling, the scandal that we all must face: God’s wisdom will be called foolish by our world’s wisdom – our internal desires, our natural wisdom, our business models… perhaps our family wishes and cultural convention… maybe even the plans we’ve drawn up for ourselves – these things will rise up and then stumble at God’s way. What then do we do?

Will we bow, and find greater fulfillment than ever we knew? Or will we stumble, and blame God and His kirk? Will we become like those who “have a form of godliness but deny the power thereof,” or will we take the path of God – the cross and its mysterious power?

If you bow, you will find power, and life – Life that explodes the old forms, into newness and joy, Joy greater than ever you imagined...

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. For it is written:

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
And bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.”

There is coming a day when all that the world has called wisdom will crumble into dust. On that day, will we be standing in the foolishness of the cross, in the power of God?

To those who are called… Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence. But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption— that, as it is written, “He who glories, let him glory in the LORD.


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