The Scandal of the Cross
“For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe.”
--From the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 1:21
Paul’s letters are often difficult to understand, or at least they often are for me. I have at times been quite disappointed with my readings of Paul, seeing him as a humble-bragger and a chauvinist, among other things. As my knowledge of the world he lived in has deepened, though, my respect for the man has increased. I think we often forget what it means to follow a crucified God.
Paul was, and by any meaningful measure is still, speaking words which are quite radical and counter to the culture of the world. We live in a world where success is framed in terms of “wins” and achievements; we have something to prove, and prove it we must. When this logic is applied to the Divine, any failure is a failure of our god. The most ancient depiction of Jesus amounts to graffiti on a wall, where His crucified body has the head of an ass, making a mockery of worshipping a murdered God.
And yet, what symbol could be more appropriate for holding our own pain, our own brokenness, our own failures and doubts and inabilities, than a mocked and rejected and murdered God? What could remind us more of the love which “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things”, as Paul says later in his letter? We do not worship a god who goes around our lives, who flies 10,000 feet above our lives; we worship a God who moves through our lives, side by side with us.
And this God sent Jesus to represent this willingness to love and lead us. This God sent Jesus to show us the power of vulnerability and ego-humbling. Jesus came not simply to die, but to show us what being fully alive really means. And they murdered Him.
The threat of violence, of shame and embarrassment, of being wrong and being weak and being unimportant, these things can function to silence and control us. They can be employed to make us small and separate us from others (what every demon seeks to do). Our call is to be people who bear the cross – to be people who refuse to let demons like these stop us from being loving and generous and honest and open. We will not be cowed into submission to anything or anyone on this Earth. We seek to submit to the One who walks the way of the cross – the way that leads to Life Abundant.