Thursday, January 23, 2020

The Foolishness of Dying

Paul says that the Cross is foolishness to the dying (1 Corinthians 1). It's a phrase we hear so often that we find ourselves simply saying it, too, and nodding in agreement. Yes, of course. Foolishness. The Cross.

But if you really stop and think about it, doesn't that seem strange to you? Don't you think that the Cross would be hope to the dying?

That's how we've framed it in our modern Christianity. That's how we use it. The Cross is our promise that, like the thief, we have a place in Paradise. The Cross is the sign that He has gone to prepare a place for us. The Cross is God's statement that heaven is waiting for us, that when we die, we, too, can be resurrected. Foolishness, maybe, if you don't believe in the promise of it, but for today's Christian, the Cross is our hope.

Isn't it?

Well, it stands to reason that someone's got this wrong. Either Paul's got it wrong or we do, and it's probably an easy guess which one I'm siding with on this one.

The Cross is still foolishness to those who are dying. And that means us. For all the living we think we're doing, we are a dying people. We were cursed to die after Adam and Eve ate the fruit. And even if you believe in the promise of resurrection, even if you're waiting anxiously for eternity, even if you know that Jesus has gone to prepare a place for you, you're still dying right now. Right now.

And as a dying people, we are also a people who do everything we can to hold onto our lives. We take medications, dye our hair, trim our waists. We buy new, hip clothes, new, hip cars. We invest ourselves in new projects, take new adventures. We do everything we can in our living to convince ourselves we're not dying, and for most of our lives, we're pretty good at it.

That's why the Cross is so foolish. Jesus had come to bring life to the people, and He was doing it. The blind were seeing, the deaf were hearing, the mute were speaking, the lame were walking. The poor were being clothed, the lonely were being visited. Everywhere Jesus went, there was life. And He let life walk Him all the way to the Cross - sure death. At the prime of everything, at just the time that hope was starting to bloom in the hearts of the people, Jesus submits Himself to the death that we're all trying to avoid, and it's foolishness. Utter foolishness.

It's foolishness because it looks like the end of all of that. It still does. We have a hard time fathoming how Jesus, who was doing so much good, could give it all up so seemingly easy. Could just...stop. Abruptly. Could just...quit. How this Jesus who spent so much of His time with people could just leave them. Just like that.

We have a hard time fathoming how this Jesus could ask us to do the same.

He does, you know. He says that the Christian life is about taking up your Cross and following Him. He says it's about dying just at the moment when you think you're doing your best living. It's about submitting yourself to something that all but promises to strip you of all the good things you've got going and trusting in something bigger. That's the way we're supposed to live - laughing, loving, healing, trusting all the way to Calvary, a Cross on our shoulders and the sound of the nails drawing ever-closer. It's still foolishness. We are called to be fools for Christ.

Earlier this week, I said that love is messy. And it is. And we have to wrap our minds around the Cross for the very same reason. It's messy. We've cleaned it up and sterilized it and polished it and put it around our necks, but it was meant to rest on our shoulders and leave blisters in our fingers. It was meant to pierce our hands and feet, to mark us as rebels on the narrow road to Golgotha while the wide road of the world is crowded with those on their way...somewhere else. The Cross was never meant to be our hope; our hope is in our Christ.

His Cross is on our shoulders.

That's how it's meant to go. That's the Christian life. It's foolishness, utter foolishness.

At least, if you're dying.

But if you're living, if your life flows with living water and you're living the abundant life that Jesus promised, then it makes perfect sense. 

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