To be honest, many people do misunderstand the cross, and think of it as some kind of divine child abuse, as if the suffering of Christ in itself instead of the compassion of Christ in and through suffering is what pleases God.
Yet even when framed correctly, as the act of self-sacrifice, love, forgiveness, and redemption that it is, it remains “… a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles,” (1 Corinthians 1:23, ESV)
Why? I think because story of the Cross told simply and faithfully is a story about humanity’s inability to save ourselves, to lift ourselves completely out of our worst tendencies. The story of the Cross says everyone needs to be taught and transformed in order to live. The story of Cross says human beings don’t know how to live apart from God, because it is impossible to live apart from God. The story of Cross says all the wisdom of humanity is nothing compared to one simple and perfect act of divine love.
God’s ways have always been simple: “He has told you, O man, 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?” (Micah 6:8, ESV)
We can do a lot as human beings: we can go to space, cure many diseases, discover much of the world and build all kinds of great wonders, but what we can’t seem to do without help is live in harmony with God and each other. The world still seems awfully short on justice, often unwilling to consider kindness, and wondering what humility really is. We cannot overpower the sin that leads to death.
How are we to even know what justice and love and kindness and walking humbly in the ways of God even means?
Quite simply, we can look to Christ, because Christ is the wisdom of God for us. This means not only does he teach the wisdom of God for our benefit, he lives out the wisdom of God for our salvation.
God, come to us as one of us in Christ Jesus, chooses the way of humble forgiveness to be the way of salvation. And his way is vindicated by his Resurrection in the power of the Holy Spirit.
We can hardly grasp that this is the way that God would save the world, yet we now know that perfect love expressed in forgiveness for sinners is the antidote to sin, an antidote only God himself could manifest, that only God himself could administer.
This post is based on a sermon I preached.