The word of the cross


1 Corinthians 1

File:Cross Charriez Christ side.JPG

Cross in Chariez (Franche-Comté) on the village square. Photo by Ginette Mathis

18 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.

I don’t like the translator’s choice. Is it a word concerning the cross or is it the message of the cross? Is it a fact being transmitted or is it the cross being proclaimed?

The word translated ‘message’ can certainly mean message. But it is that wonderful word ‘word’ – logos – as in “the word became flesh and dwelt among us.” As in “if you abide in my word you are truly my disciples.” It may mean message or teaching, it may refer to content, but it is never just message; it is that living word that is like rain watering the earth. That word from God described in Isaiah 55 is a power that accomplishes something, that lifts up and casts down nations, that wipes away sins, that makes the scarlet white as snow – since that word of the cross is “the power of God” it shouldn’t be allowed to be thought of as a mere ‘message’.

This is a word like the word of a judge that sets a man free or binds him over into prison. This is a word like “I do” that creates a lifelong union. This is a word like “I love you” that draws two lives together in ever deeper bonds of affection. It is a word of power. A word that does not return empty. A word that creates, that effects something, that changes everything.

This word of the cross, this message from the cross, is a power. It casts down and lifts up. It crucifies and raises. It declares that blood is on our hands and wipes them clean.

Blood is on our hands.  We are crucifiers. We are rebels against heaven. We slay the holy. We defy eternity. We are haters of perfect goodness. This message from the cross, this word the cross speaks, this word reveals the human heart. My human heart. It makes me see the hammer I hold.

There is a hammer in my hands. And suddenly every curt word, every taunt, every hidden hate, every overt rage, every greed and lust and fault of character is revealed to me. The word of the cross slays my pride, my inturned self.

And then the cross speaks mercy. Speaks forgiveness. Speaks of eternity’s boundless love. My sin is carried away. My sin atoned. My life redeemed. My self reborn.

The word of the cross is power. Power to heal and renew and resurrect. Power to free us from every bondage.

This word the cross speaks is power to those being saved, being healed, being made whole, being brought home to our eternal father.

But for those for whom it is folly… Is there any other word but ‘perishing’ for the heart that thinks any declaration of love or compassion or forgiveness is mere folly?


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