Event and Experience
Atonement, like the cross and resurrection, isn’t a new idea that we can comprehend and master, but an experience of the grace of God that leads us through death to new life.
What’s the particular difference between a theory about something—parenting, dating, writing, working at a particular job—and actually doing it? How does that distinction between theory and experience translate into our relationship with God? What’s the difference between a theoretical faith and an experiential one?
Think back to a time when you were “caught” doing something you shouldn’t have done. Maybe it was something big, or maybe something little. What did it feel like? How did you feel about the person who caught you? Looking back, what did it cost you? And what did it offer you? That is, did it make anything new possible?
We tend to think about our faith in fairly personal, even somewhat individualistic, ways. But the Bible confesses that God loves the whole world (John 3:16). How does the cross have significance for the whole world? And what about resurrection?
1 Corinthians 1:18-2:2
For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written,
‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.’
Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For 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. For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling-block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.
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. 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; God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, so that no one might boast in the presence of God. He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption, in order that, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.’
When I came to you, brothers and sisters, I did not come proclaiming the mystery of God to you in lofty words or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified.
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org
How do you understand Paul when he says that the message of the cross is “foolishness” and a “stumbling block”? How does the cross “trip us up”?
The cross, as an instrument of torture, humiliation, and execution, was about the last way anyone would have expected God to work fro the salvation of the world. What does this “foolish” choice tell us about God? What does it tell us about us?
When have you experienced the foolishness of the cross bringing you down and the righteousness of God bringing you back up again? What was it like? How might you share that with others?