1 Corinthians 1:18-31
18For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” 20Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21For 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. 22For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, 23but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength. 26Consider your own call, brothers and sisters: not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, 29so that no one might boast in the presence of God. 30He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31in order that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”
What I am Learning:
Jesus was a loser.
Jesus of Nazareth was born to a mother and father among the lowest of the low within Jewish society. Carpenters were your basic “fix it” people who patched up people’s things because they didn’t own any land. His parentage limited him his whole life as people kept asking where he was from – a way of pointing out that he had low status.
Jesus was a loser
While he had an interesting and once promising career as a itinerant preacher and gained quite a following, he was really just a flash in the pan. Jesus claimed to take on the role of the messiah. But he failed to garner the support of enough people. Further, he failed to devise the necessary strategy to cast the Romans out of Palestine, the most necessary part of the messiah’s job description.
Jesus was a loser.
After a brief publicity blitz in Jerusalem including a parade, a brief disruption of the Temple money making machine, and a trial resulting in the typical “guilty” verdict by a consortium of local Roman leaders and their collaborating local leaders, Jesus was publicly executed on a cross, along with two others. While many people survived the torture for days, Jesus died after only about 6 hours.
He was a loser in a long line of losers and he lost.
This is the story that most people expected to be told about Jesus.
Paul tells a different story. He claims, rather unbelievably, that the one who lost so completely was not only loved by God, but represents the very wisdom and the way of God to bring change to the human race. The cross, he says, is not the failure of Jesus but his triumph, and not only Jesus’ triumph but it is God’s triumph over evil.
Jesus represents how God works in the world – God enters into the pain of human existence and the pain in caused by human injustice and meets us there.
The Judean leaders wanted signs – that is they wanted results. The Greeks wanted to make sense of things. God cares not for the Judean leader’s need for proof, or the intricacy of the Greeks logical proofs. Both of these, he says, are a part of a culture in which people boast, that is: seek power over each other in status games.
But God did not want to play a status game. God did not want to win the game. God wanted to play a different game. God wanted to invite us to play the game of mutuality in which all people are seen as Children of God, and so worthy of love, fully of dignity, and respect.
In his choice to go to the cross rather than to take up arms, Jesus shows the wisdom of God to risk God’s very self so that we might see the foolishness of our dog-eat-dog world.
We all grew up in a dog-eat-dog culture and so we all know
- How it is
- The way things are
- The reality of the situation
- What common sense tells us
- That the wealthy always win
- It’s each person for themselves
- That might makes right
- The cream rises to the top
- That we are powerless to change things
- Nice people finish last
But God’s wisdom is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength. But be careful here: God’s weakness is not stronger than human strength because God is so much stronger by comparison, the way an adult finger is strong enough to strangle a new born.
No, what is stronger than human strength is that God is willingness to be weak, to be vulnerable.
God is willing to be a loser to change the game so that all can win together.
God joins human beings in our weakness and vulnerability. God takes the side of the most vulnerable in the chaos of society’s injustice.
This means that we can learn to embrace our own vulnerability and know that we are loved precisely there.
This means that wen we are vulnerable within a culture, that we can follow Christ into work for justice for ourselves and our neighbor.
This means that we can join God in accompanying the vulnerable in our culture as we together seek justice for all.
As we do this, we will likely experience tensions, conflict and suffering. But in the midst of that suffering we can “boast in the Lord.” In other words, we find our meaning and value in our participation with Jesus in the healing of the world. We don’t have to worry if we are losers by the definitions of our larger culture. We get to ignore the “debater of the age” who invalidates anyone with a different viewpoint. We live in the power of Christ who is the source of our life, crucified and risen, and know a different wisdom.
We trust that this foolish wisdom is God’s wisdom and that it is the way to life.