I used to scratch my head wondering why the world would call the gospel of Christ “foolish”.
“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 Cor. 1:18)
I could see the world hating God for requiring something of them morally (even though his yoke is easy and his burden is light).
I could see the world hating God for people undergoing eternal punishment (even though he offers a way out, paid with his Son’s blood).
I could see the world hating God for allowing or seemingly ignoring, in the Bible, things that don’t match up with my 21st century Western worldview (like war or slavery).
I could see all that. I wouldn’t agree with it – he is beyond our accounting – but then again, I hardly expect the world to understand (yet) things that are only revealed by the Spirit they reject. From their limited standpoint, their hatred of God makes sense. I pray for their eyes to be opened.
But why would they think of God, or anything from God, as foolish, as 1 Corinthians 1:18 says? Judgmental, callous, unfair in their eyes, maybe, but foolish?
Then I started thinking, “Well, what does the world want from God?”
The Jews of Jesus’ time were counting on a Messiah who would rise up into a military leader and free God’s chosen people from the Romans’ yoke. It made sense – the Romans and their predecessors were cruel and tyrannical, they had martyred his people and blasphemed God’s holiness with images of other gods set up in the temple just decades earlier, and justice seemed overdue. Peter was incensed that Jesus would allow himself to be something so profanely human as dead. He wanted to see power.
Fast forward two thousand years and we haven’t changed much.
A Christ who removes all suffering from the world – that’s a God the world would get behind. Or so they say.
A Christ who plainly reveals his presence and strength – that’s a God they’d follow.
A Christ who gives us our hearts’ desires without asking for anything back – that’s a God they’d appreciate and worship.
But the Christ they see on the cross?
The greatest possible injustice – a perfect Man sentenced to the world’s most horrific criminal’s death – willingly surrendered to by a God jealous for his own glory?
“Foolishness,” the world says.
The wisdom of the world thinks it has everything figured out. Laws. Peace treaties. Governments. Unity. Coexistence. Tall cities. Abortion as population control. Things like that. The wisdom of the world wants a God who acts more like a servant, accounting for his actions and giving humanity its every whim, though even Bruce Almighty correctly points out that granting every lottery player’s prayer would yield them each 17 dollars. Who’s really the God in this scenario anyway?
“The only thing holding us back is your followers, God,” says the world in a fit of epic willful blindness, to a Lord they don’t even acknowledge. “This should all be working. Can’t you just leave us alone?”
1 Corinthians 1 refuses.
Indeed, the rest of the chapter is about wisdom, and how God has the entire human race outclassed in the fine art of thinking. God’s wisdom reaches both lower and higher than mankind’s – lower, in that he DID come as a servant, “to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45) – and higher, in that he is fiercely committed to our sanctification, to our calling upward. Even in the matter of slavery, he refuses to let us lower the dialogue by making it all about our circumstances, but insists that we live well in all things. And then gives us the power to do so. His wisdom transcends, runs circles around ours, hemming us in from above and below.
Instead of letting us put him in a box, God reveals the box in which we languish. It’s called sin. The one X-factor the world doesn’t acknowledge, but yet transforms the entire debate, turning human wisdom into rubbish.
And it is so easy for anyone to escape the box. They need only receive God’s offer of salvation.
I pray that the eyes of my unbelieving friends might be opened, that they would see the outstretched hand of a loving God, made possible by the blood of his own Son. That is God’s wisdom.
Meanwhile, man comes up with…building taller cities in hurricane zones.
I know who I’m following.