The great challenge for the church is to proclaim and live out the Christian virtues in a world that has gained so much earthly success by forsaking them.
The Christian call to humility, moreover, is difficult in a climate where humility is seen as “weakness.” In our world, the Christian claim that the death of God on the cross was an instance of “power” falls on deaf ears. Why? Because the collective consensus is such that “power” is synonymous with the competing western virtues of prestige, wealth, capital assets, and sword. (This mindset, sadly, often exists in the world and the church).
Thus, the claims “the cross is power” and “weakness is strength” are taken as both (1) non-sense to a world inoculated with power and (2) non-desirable to a church that has been compromised by it. (May the Lord’s conviction start with me.)
And yet: the fundamental Christian claim is that the message of the cross “is power” (1 Cor 1:18).
Notice the grammar of that statement: “the message of the cross is power.” The “is” is important. Why? Because crosses are not typically instruments of power for those who are hanging lifeless upon them. By all appearances, it is the crucifier, not the Crucified, who “is” at that moment in “power.” And yet we confess the opposite: Christ, the Crucified, is for us a display of power. In his submission to God (yes, even to the point of death; Phil 2:8), Christ destroyed evil, soaking up the world’s sorrow and plight in himself (Is 53).
The message of the cross, then, is power; weakness is strength.
As people like Hauerwas often remind us, the great mission for the church is to challenge the world’s grammar of power, strength, and success. This will not be easy. In fact, it will be excruciatingly hard. In doing so, however, the church graciously offers the world not merely a new grammar but also a new logic of what it means to be powerful, strong, and successful.
It offers the weak of this world a renewed sense of strength, namely, that God has identified with them in their weakness. It offers the poor a wealth of riches, for God takes up the plight of the exploited, having been victimized himself. It offers the foreigner a place to call home, for he too was far from home. It makes an offer to the rich in this world, inviting them to find better, more lasting, meaning that comes through giving – for God gave of himself too. It invites the powerful of this age to find their hope not in power but in a person, Christ – the one who put aside his own matchless prestige for the well-being of others. This is the new logic. A healing logic. A logic centered upon the work of Christ.
Importantly, this Christo-logic is one that makes it reasonable to embrace weakness because it knows that there is a God who, most gloriously, vindicates on Sunday what was displayed on Friday.
Indeed, the shock of Friday’s suffering often leads us to the tomb of Saturday’s depression, but it will always end with Sunday’s resurrection.
Saturday will be over soon, friends.