First Corinthians 1:18 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. 19 For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.” 20 Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know Him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22 Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. 26 Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 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. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him. 30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God, that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”
Messages can be verbal or written. They can be personal—face to face, or remote by phone or answering machine. They can be written on paper with pencil or pen. They can be hand delivered or sent by mail or even email. Their purpose is to convey information which the sender wants the receiver to know and usually do something.
There was one message however which was not written with ink but with something else, and it was not written on paper. It was written in Blood and written on a wooden cross.
“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing….” Indeed, it goes beyond human understanding. A Father? who loved His Son? allowing Him to die for people who hated Him? I wouldn’t do it, and neither would you, and no one else for that matter.
So much of the Bible is about things the natural mind cannot believe. Feeding a large crowd a small amount of food and then picking up more scraps than they began with? Walking on water? Bringing back a man who had been dead for 4 days and as they said, “he stinks.”???
“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 Christians however, it is not only believable, but it is a fact! Jesus did walk upon the water; the 5,000 were fed and were satisfied from the little boy’s lunch, and twelve baskets of left-overs were picked up! Lazarus was raised from the dead!
But most importantly is the very message itself, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
And this: “But God demonstrated His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
I don’t know the percentage of how many Americans are Christians and how many are agnostics or atheists. But I do know this: That percentage of non-Christians has increased dramatically since I was a new pastor. That means many of our fellow citizens think we are foolish.
But that is alright because, “the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom…” They think it is foolish to believe in God. We think it is foolish not to. They think the earth created itself through millions of years of evolution, that we started as pond scum and evolved into primates and then sub-human and then human. One future-thinking evolutionist told me that we are as closely related to apes now as our great-great-great grandchildren will be to us. We think God created us out of the dust of the earth and breathed life into us.
Like agnostics and atheists, we have faith. We have faith in God and what the Bible says. They have faith in themselves and what others have told them. The Bible says, “We walk by faith and not by sight.” We believe that—they don’t! But as I said before, neither Christians nor agnostics and atheists would eat their breakfast if they did not have faith to believe it was not tainted. Likewise getting in our cars. We (and they) have faith our cars will get us where we are going and back, and that is without any possible proof that they can! So when they say they have facts and figures and all we have is faith they deceive themselves!
Now does that make us better than they are? No! “Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 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….”
Now first off, there are excellent Christians who are wise and of noble birth. Some years ago, our Synod ran a story about how strong a Christian Kaiser William II was. Some of our presidents were devout Christians. Many people with Ph.D.’s are great Christians. The richest millionare I personally knew was a very humble and devout Christian.
Yet many of us were not wise, well educated, and coming from prestigious families. However, we are now sons and daughters of our heavenly Father, and that makes us special! As Luther said about our relationship to God with Jesus inviting us to call Him Father: “God would tenderly invite us to believe that He is our true Father, and that we are His true children, so that we may ask Him with all boldness and confidence, as children ask their dear father.”
“Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles…” To update that to our time, “Agnostics and atheists demand signs…” But…. I don’t know about that. I have had conversations with some who will not accept signs even medical science or other facts would back up miracles.
But enough of them—what about us? We believe the Apostles Creed, that Jesus was born of a virgin, suffered under Pontius Pilot, was crucified, died and was buried and on the third day rose again. But what about His teachings? Walk the extra mile, turn the other cheek, bless those who curse us? Do not worry, our heavenly Father knows our needs and takes good care of us? What about “You shall be My witnesses?” When was the last time you witnessed for Christ? Even invited someone to church?
Blessed are the peacemakers. Do you go out of your way to try to help those having strife?
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Some commentators relate this to what Saint Paul said: “For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation….” Godly sorrow comes when we rightly see ourselves in the light of the Word of God and see how we fall short of the commandments. Do we really recognize, admit and confess our sins because we are sorry for them? Or do we excuse them—while at the same time do not excuse the same sins committed by others?
It is not enough to say, “I know I am not perfect but…” as we justify ourselves. Instead, we need to say—not from our lips—nor from memory but from our hearts, “O most merciful God I have sinned against You and really and truly deserve whatever punishment would otherwise come to me. But for the sake of all the suffering Jesus did on the cross to pay for my sins—I repent and promise to strive to find and to walk on that straight and narrow way. God help me!” Now the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us it is the power of God to save us!
And then to hear and to feel and to believe, “Thy sins be forgiven thee, go and sin no more.” Amen.
Photo credit: Rohit Tandon
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