“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 Corinthians 1:18
I’ve never really given this scripture a lot of thought-until today. Often when I share my faith with someone, they track with me until I get to the point where I talk about how I don’t know who I’d be without Jesus, and how He’s carried me through so many hard times. Then I see their eyes glaze over as if to say, “How can just believing in something do all of that?” Reading this scripture, their reaction makes a lot more sense.
For those of us who know Him. . . who have a relationship with Him, His power makes sense. You know you are a new person. When you look back into your past, you see a totally transformed life. I can’t imagine reacting the same way now to things that used to knock me on my butt, both emotionally and spiritually. It’s the trials and tribulations of life that have transformed me, but only through His power. Without Jesus, the pain of living, of losing, and of suffering would have just made me bitter, angry, and wounded. But with His comfort, strength, peace and perspective, they have made me stronger, smarter, and more resilient, all the while preserving a tender heart. His power is something I couldn’t live without. His grace is something that keeps me moving forward when I want to lie down and quit. His love is the one constant thing in my life that never changes, and the unchanging goodness of His character gives life to my soul, especially in the midst of darkness. To me, the power of God is scientifically plausible, proven beyond a doubt, and dependable without question.
Now look at “those who are perishing.” They live in the same world, with the same pain. They see the rain fall on the just and the unjust and wonder what kind of God would allow the innocent to suffer and the evil to prosper. They compare themselves to the next person and think they rate pretty high on the decency scale, and yet they experience more than their “fair share” of pain. How could some fabled prophet dying on an ugly piece of wood over 2000 years ago make any difference in their lives? How could just believing that something happened and accepting the message from an ancient manuscript do anything to ease their pain? Foolishness. It doesn’t make sense. They need to win the lottery, finish school and get a better job, move to a nicer neighborhood, make more friends, meet the right man/woman, travel more, experience more of life. That is the way to more peace, more happiness. That makes sense.
So how do we convince them that Jesus and the message of the cross is the answer? We don’t. He does. We live our lives before them and honestly share our struggles, with all the ugly emotions they cause and all the pain we endure. We don’t pretend that being a Christian keeps us from suffering. We don’t act like we can’t be hurt and broken. We show them hurt and broken, but then we show them what it is that gets us through. What it is that changes us from the inside out. When we’re weeping like there’s no tomorrow, we let them see that, and then let them see that His hope is all we’re living for. When we’re tortured by our own fears, we don’t hide it, but then we don’t hide the fact that His peace is all that keeps us from insanity some days. We have to be real. Real people, with real struggles and a real God who gets us through them.
The world doesn’t need another empty promise. Humanity isn’t crying out for the corner neighborhood church that has all the pat answers and a 12-step program. They need Someone who’ll walk with them in the trenches. They need Someone who understands their suffering, and won’t turn away from the gore and ugliness that is in their soul. They need the real Jesus. And it won’t make sense until they see His face. The face that understands their suffering, the injustice and the pain and doesn’t turn away. The face that loves them because of who they are, not in spite of it. Only then can foolishness become power.