The foolishness we need

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“We proclaim Christ crucified,” Paul reminds the Christians in Corinth (1 Cor 1:23). This was not, he acknowledges, what most people were looking for. The idea that God has acted in the world through a man being tortured to death was an obstacle too big for them to get over. It seemed nonsensical.

If Jesus was the representative of the Creator, why didn’t he use his infinite power to defend himself?

Why didn’t he at least give himself more time to build up his movement? When he was arrested, the man he’d been training for leadership responsibility denied he had ever met him, and his other followers fled. Why didn’t Jesus stay up in Galilee, away from the buzz saw of the power structure in Jerusalem, and keep teaching and working miracles?

He could have continued grooming his followers to take over local branches and built up a donor base. His group could have grown into something substantial enough to stand by him in the event of outside attacks. What could his untimely and ghastly death accomplish?

So was Jesus’ way of proceeding foolish? Is it foolish to affirm that through his death God acted for humanity?

Sure, it is, Paul responds, by human standards. From a human point of view, the story that culminated at Golgotha makes no sense. But it was God’s way of acting nonetheless.

So if we want to regard it as foolishness, Paul says, we’ll have to call it the “foolishness of God.” That paradoxical phrase puts the question to us very directly: If God’s way of doing things looks foolish to us, where does the foolishness lie?

In Jesus’ relinquishing his human life, Paul says, there was actually deep wisdom. He offered his life to God with total trust that God’s will for him was good and that through it God would accomplish great good.

This is the loving obedience to God from which we, in our “human wisdom,” have gone astray, each of us on his or her own little path. This is the relationship with God that we need to rediscover. And it is Jesus’ death that is the entryway.

Jesus’ powerless death on a cross is the “weakness of God” into which we can enter, leaving behind our self-willed “human strength” and experiencing “the power of God” to remake us as his loving sons and daughters.