The Foolishness of the Cross
God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, so that no one might boast in the presence of God. (1 Corinthians 1:27-29)
Two weeks ago, I posted a Word that God gave to me. One of the things it said was:
When the word fails, will not any father turn to the rod? In that day, you will ask, “What does God want?” but I will not answer, for it has not changed.
What does God want? Does he long for churches or cathedrals built in his name? Does he long for songs of praise? Does he judge us on how much we put into the collection plate?
Clearly God must want something, for the Bible speaks of covenant, an agreement between two parties. God made promises to us. What does he ask in return? Hebrews (8:6-13) points us in the right direction:
“I will put my laws in their minds and I will inscribe them on their hearts. And I will be their God and they will be my people.”
Do you hear echoes of Deuteronomy 6 in that passage? Hosea? I do.
God gave his law in written form in Exodus. The problem with written law is, there’s wiggle room. Just look at Matthew 15:4-5.
God told us clearly what he wants, and Jesus repeated it:
“‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-40)
How much do I have to love God and my neighbor? My family has a three-bedroom house. Do I have to give up one or more of those bedrooms for someone who can’t afford a house? That would be crazy. I have responsibilities to my family, right?
That would be foolish.
The point is, if this law is written on my heart, I’m not looking for wiggle room. I’m living the law God set out for me.
Was Jesus serious when he said that those who don’t feed and clothe the poor are headed for “eternal punishment” (Mt 25:45-46)? Was God serious when he commanded us to love the stranger, the alien among us (Dt 10:19)? Was the Beloved Disciple serious when he said that those who have, but who close their hearts to a person in need, cannot claim that they love God (1 John 3:17)? Was Jesus serious when he said we should forgive those who sin against us as many times as necessary (Mt 18:22), and that we should love our enemies (Mt 5:44)? That we shouldn’t worship so long as someone has something against us (Mt 5:23-24)? That our own forgiveness from God depends entirely on whether we forgive others (Mt 6:14-15)?
Seriously, that doesn’t work in the real world. (How many times have readers told me that?)
That’s just foolish.
And yet, if God’s law was written on our hearts, we wouldn’t question it. We wouldn’t look for wiggle room. We wouldn’t add the exclusion, “If it makes sense to do so and doesn’t cost too much.”
When I say “we,” I include myself. Because what God wants is impossible in the real world, and I live in the real world. Some of the time, anyway. Yes, I fall short. Every day I fall short. I am of Babylon, and I shall suffer its fate.
I know this, because I can read, and I have read. The prophets reviled Israel and Judah for their greed, their corruption, and their selfishness. I am not exempt from that judgement. Nor are my country, my people, my brothers and sisters.
Today in church, we read Micah 6:1-8, in which God makes a prosecutorial statement against Israel. He’s challenging them to a court case! Israel replies by asking how much worship will satisfy God. (Worship in those days meant sacrifices.) God replies with these famous and oft-quoted verses:
He has told you, O mortal, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?
It’s not about how much I worship God. It’s not merely a matter of professing Christ with my lips. Yes, I have been given grace–that’s God’s part of the covenant. My part is, how do I live in the world now that I’ve received that grace?
God declared Israel to be in breach of contract. They hadn’t fulfilled their part of the covenant.