The Foolishness of the World
Is the cross truly the center of our lives?
It’s a question I have been wrestling with ever since I began to study 1 Corinthians. From the very beginning, as Paul addresses the church of Corinth, strikingly similar to the “church of America,” we see his emphasis on one thing — the cross. The Corinthians had been filled with pride, envy, factions, and immorality only a short time after Paul had left them. They believed that even as young Christians they had reached the peak of their Christian experience. Their pride led them to focus on things of this world, their own opinions and tastes, and begin to rebel against Paul’s teaching. But Paul tells them plainly and simply that what is important is the cross — the gospel that saved them.
What struck me when I first began studying was something D.A. Carson mentions in his book The Cross and Christian Ministry.
What would you think if a woman came to work wearing earrings stamped with an image of the mushroom cloud of the atomic bomb dropped over Hiroshima?
What would you think of a church building adorned with a fresco of the massed graves at Auschwitz?
Both visions are grotesque. They are not only intrinsically abhorrent, but they are shocking because of powerful cultural associations. The same sort of shocked horror was associated with “cross” and “crucifixion” in the first century. Apart from the emperor’s explicit sanction, no Roman citizen could be put to death by this means. Crucifixion was reserved for slaves, aliens, barbarians. Many thought it was not something to be talked about in polite company. Quite apart from the wretched torture inflicted on those who were executed by hanging from a cross, the cultural associations conjured up images of evil, corruption, abysmal rejection.
That quote seems to make the statement that God chose the “foolish things of this world to shame the wise” even stronger. I like the new perspective it gives us into what Paul is saying right in the very beginning of 1 Corinthians. It is clear that the cross is not, in the world’s eyes, full of wisdom, nor of strength. It was even more so in the first century.
We run to the cross. It must be the center of our lives, our speech, our actions, and our minds. The cross- the gospel – must guide our daily actions. Many do not understand this teaching, but it is so evident through God’s Word. It saves us, and when we look at the cross and its suffering, we flee from sin. It is the center, it is the story.