Since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, 23 but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength. 26 Consider your own call, brothers and sisters: not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, 29 so that no one might boast in the presence of God. 30 He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 in order that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:21-31)
Paul divides the world up into two categories in this passage: the “Jews” who want signs of God’s power to prove his existence and their own righteousness, and the “Greeks” who want to prove God’s existence through wisdom, which they can then use to enhance their standing in society (“wisdom” being highly valuable in Greek culture). Now, obviously our world does not fall into the neat ethnic categories of Jew and Greek today … but the two basic mindsets of how people approach religion are still much the same. People generally want religion for one of two reasons. Either they want a sign of God’s power (preferably one that benefits them in some way–wealth, healing, political or military power, etc.) or they want some special wisdom that will enlighten them, help them climb up the path to heaven. (Remember when I talked about up religion and down religion? These are the two main forms of up religion.)
But God the deepest and most powerful way in which God shows Godself to us is not through great wisdom and great power (or, at least, not what the world counts as great wisdom and great power). God came down to earth and took on human form. Then he allowed himself to be arrested for a crime he was innocent of, and died one of the most gruesome deaths imaginable, naked and broken for all the world to see. This does not look like power, and it does not look like wisdom. At least not what we think of as power and wisdom.
Yet through that cross, through that weakness, that foolishness, God broke the power of sin and death and the hold it had over the world. This is the way God works in the world: through weakness and foolishness, things that we humans would normally try to avoid at all costs. The cross is what God’s power and wisdom truly look like. So if we truly want to see and experience God’s power and wisdom, we can’t rely on our own views of what power and wisdom should look like. We need to let God show us what “Christ crucified” looks like in the 21st century. We need to stop boasting in ourselves or the things we think we can get from God, and start paying attention instead to what God is doing in us and through us in things that look weak and foolish.
We need to start seeing every person through the lens of the cross.