For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.1 Corinthians 1:18
Paul was writing to Christians in Corinth, one of the most significant economic and strategic cities in the Roman empire. The city had a citadel looming above it called the Acrocorinthos, which looked out in many directions. It loomed on the isthmus as Gibraltar looms at the opening of the Mediterranean. It represented the wealth and power of Rome.
The church in Corinth was undergoing some struggles. It appears certain people were considering themselves better than others in the citywide church. There seemed to be an economic divide with the wealthy claiming a favored status, but also some who claimed to have “stronger” spiritual gifts. Some were claiming they had a better pedigree in faith because of who their teacher was (Peter, Paul, Apollos, or, the ultimate trump card, Jesus), a sort of Harvard vs. Yale situation.
So how does Paul remind them of who they are and whose they are? The cross of crucifixion of Jesus Christ!
IIn this Greco-Roman context, the cross of crucifixion was a sign of status or lack thereof. It was a shameful and terrifying torture and execution device only used on non-citizens. This barbaric and inhumane death machine meant to display to the people what happens when you mess with Rome. It was a symbol of Rome’s power!
Look at what Paul does with it. To those who don’t understand the Christian faith and its symbol, the cross is considered folly. To this person, Jesus was a failed rebel against all that the empire values: citizenship, wealth, and power. Therefore he was executed by the power of Rome, and those who follow him are on a fools’ errand.
But as Christians, they need to understand that the cross is power. Its power does not lay in classism or spiritual one-upmanship but is always about love and submission and humbleness. Paul goes on to remind them that this was what Jesus taught, and this is how we are supposed to live.
I am so glad to see that Paul’s letter fixed everything and those behaviors that were causing division for the Corinthian Christians no longer exist in the modern church!
Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”Mark 12:29-31