Who Is the Real Fool?

1 Corinthians 1:18 “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”

I can tolerate many things. But I don’t like to be considered a fool. Since I was in high school–no, grade school–peer pressure has played on my pride and my desire to be accepted. It has gotten me to do some really dumb things. I will spare you the gory details.

Peer pressure doesn’t end when our school days are over. A 58-year-old single Christian woman with a page on a popular internet dating sight made it clear in her profile she had not lived a perfect life in the past. Going forward, however, she intended to avoid physical intimacy before marriage. She was surprised and saddened by how many people took time to mock and criticize her for her beliefs. Pressure to conform to the word’s ways hasn’t ended just because she is approaching 60.

Paul wasn’t talking about personal morality in these words to the Christians in Corinth. He was talking about the preaching of the gospel, the message of Jesus’ cross. Our world still thinks that is foolish. They pressure us to think the same. Maybe they don’t use the word “foolish.” Maybe they use words like “not relevant.” “Hey, I don’t need some dusty theology about something that happened 2000 years ago. I need something to help me live a better life tomorrow. I need information I can use every day.” The information they mean is not the message of the cross.

Early in my ministry I read about a conference in Minneapolis at which a “Christian” college professor told those gathered, “I don’t think we need people hanging from crosses, and blood dripping, and weird stuff.” I know of Christian parents who pulled their children from Sunday School classes because they didn’t want them exposed to the story of Jesus’ crucifixion. Why? “…the message of the cross is foolishness…” It doesn’t work for so many. It doesn’t make any more sense to them today than in Paul’s day.

Before we get with the times and throw out the foolishness of the cross in favor of a less offensive, less graphic message, consider where Paul says the world’s opinion is taking them. “The message of the cross is foolishness…to those who are perishing.” Remember the stock question that parents used to ask when their kids wanted permission to give in to the peer pressure, because “everybody else is doing it”? “Well, if everyone else was jumping off a bridge, would you want to jump, too?” Paul’s words have a bit of that flavor here. Those who think the cross is foolish are perishing. They are dying a slow, spiritual death. Do we want to end up like them?

I am reminded of the brave confession I once heard a pastor in Sweden give. When he was asked, “Why do you want to leave the Church of Sweden (the state church which makes little use of the Bible and hardly believes in Jesus’ saving work anymore) where a pastor can have a nice, comfortable life (as a sort of government bureaucrat)? Why do you want to join a little free church, with just a few people in it?” His answer: “The Titanic was a very luxurious ship. It was big. It was comfortable. But I would rather be sitting in one of the little life boats and live, than stay on that big ship and end up at the bottom of the sea!”

The message of the cross looks like little more than a humble life boat. It is foolishness to our world, but it is foolishness to those who are perishing. To those who are being saved, it is the power God uses to save our souls.

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