“But to those called by God to salvation, both Jews and Gentiles, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. This foolish plan of God is wiser than the wisest of human plans, and God’s weakness is stronger than the greatest of human strength.” 1 Corinthians 1:24-25 NLT
A year ago, I witnessed the “miracle of the triumphant crossing” of my 91 year old aunt from her earthly life to eternal life. She was a kidney cancer survivor of more than 40 years. Two months before her death, she miraculously survived a medical crisis when she had to be intubated in the intensive care unit and had a renal dialysis. This was a “miracle of God’s guidance to a cure” which gave her the opportunity to prepare her family for her departure to heaven. She was homesick for heaven and felt that she had already been given her passport to heaven. She was waiting impatiently for her ticket to heaven. She was longing to be “absent from the body” and to be “at home with the Lord” (2 Cor 5:8).
I was much encouraged by my aunt’s preparedness for her heavenly destination. The day before she passed away, a devotional aptly described her life – “sometimes God chooses to deliver us from hardships, and sometimes he delivers us through them.” But what is most important is that we are set free from the fear of death:
“Being God’s friend does indeed come with fringe benefits. Yes, you’ll have a host of blessings while you’re alive, but what a comfort to never be in terror of dying, because you have nothing to fear.”
The apparently futile and horrifying death of Jesus Christ on the cross is the awesome demonstration of the amazing love of God that sets us free from sin and the fear of death. The good news of the cross of Christ is foolishness when we are not hungering and thirsting for a loving relationship with God as our Heavenly Father, with Jesus as our Divine Lover, or with the Holy Spirit as our Comforter and Guide.
How can it be, Charles Wesley wrote in his hymn, that God should die for us who caused his pain? The Jews were offended by the gospel of the cross of Christ as they were seeking signs of God’s power from heaven while the Greeks saw the gospel as nonsense as they were seeking human wisdom. But the wisdom of the cross is that it reveals God’s dramatic cure for our mortal addiction to sin. We may be physically alive but spiritually dead. We are separated from a holy God by our sinful nature.
The cross of Christ sets us free from the judgment of God against sin and evil so that we can live a life of grace and not a life under the law. But our human nature wants to control and manipulate others through fear and greed. Hence, we will face opposition to the message of the cross which sets us free to live for God and not for our egos. The apostle Paul was persecuted when he was sharing the gospel of Christ crucified in Corinth but he was encouraged to persevere and to speak out:
“One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision and told him, “Don’t be afraid! Speak out! Don’t be silent! For I am with you, and no one will attack and harm you, for many people in this city belong to me.” Acts of the Apostles 18:9-10 NLT
We need to speak out even when we feel that we are a voice in the wilderness. But to be chosen by God is to embark on a journey out of our comfort zone which may result in losing our heads like John the Baptist. Believing in the Risen Lord, according to Henri Nouwen, means believing that, in and through Christ, the evil one has been overcome and death is no longer the final word. Like Abraham, we are chosen to live a life of faith in the love of God. Abraham had to face struggles, strife and conflicts when he answered God’s call. Jordan Peterson makes the following perceptive observation:
“The biblical account insists that Abraham stayed safely ensconced within his father’s tent until he was seventy-five years old (a late start even by today’s standards). Then called by God – inspired by the voice within, let us say, to leave family and country – he journeys forward into life. And what does he encounter, after heeding the divine call to adventure? First, famine. Then tyranny in Egypt; the potential loss of his beautiful wife to more powerful men; exile from his adopted country; conflicts over territory with his kinsmen; war, and the kidnapping of his nephew; extended childlessness (despite God’s promise to make him the progenitor of a great nation); and finally, terrible conflict between his spouses.”
The way of the cross is daunting when life is centered only on ourselves and we see life only from our limited human perspective. Our negative attitudes and perspectives towards the calling of God needs to be changed. David Livingstone posed the challenging question:
“There is one safe and happy place, and that is in the will of God. If a commission by an earthly king is considered an honor, how can a commission by a Heavenly King be considered a sacrifice?”
We lose the joy of God’s presence when fears and doubts keeps us from pursuing God’s wisdom. Lazarus had to die so that Martha can experience the truth that Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life. Jesus died and rose from the dead so that we can be reborn again and have everything we need to live the eternal life here and now:
“A thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy. But I came so that my sheep will have life and so that they will have everything they need.” John 10:10 GW
The surrender or sacrifice in following Christ is not giving up what we love but our response of love to our Divine Lover. It is living out the truth that God’s grace is all we need and that God’s power works best in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:8). The wisdom of the cross is to open our eyes to see that heaven is found in the Presence of God and hell is the absence of the Presence of God. The cross of Christ beckons us to turn back to God and to rest in Christ so that the Holy Spirit can fill us with the love of God. This is folly to the worldly person but heavenly wisdom to those whom God has called. In the cross of Christ, we have the power for the hour. So let us live in the wisdom of the cross:
Oh, to see my name
Written in the wounds,
For through Your suffering I am free.
Death is crushed to death,
Life is mine to live,
Won through Your selfless love.
This, the power of the cross:
Son of God, slain for us.
What a love! What a cost!
We stand forgiven at the cross.