Because I’m reading 1 Corinthians right now, a snippet from the commentary that changed my life, Richard B. Hays’ First Corinthians commentary from the Interpretation series, on “Reflections for Teachers and Preachers” regarding 1 Cor 1:18-2:5…
“…preaching that focuses on the cross will not be comforting and cheerful. Such preaching will take the full measure of human depravity and meditate deeply on the radical character of God’s solution. No upbeat self-help message here! This kind of preaching may sound foreboding, but in an age when we are surrounded on all sides by sugar-coated public relations hype and superficial gladness, the honest preaching of the cross will strike a responsive chord deep in the human heart. We want to be told the truth about our desperate situation; indeed, only when that truth is told can the depth of God’s grace be rightly grasped…” (p. 37).
There’s a fundamental revulsion in my gut when I think about “the full measure of human depravity.” I think we all attach specific horrors that we cannot help but divorce from our own human capability, violence or hypocrisy or flagrant neglect that we must other-ize or else we could not live with ourselves. Repugnant things you hear about human beings doing, you rightly disassociate yourself from them so that you can name them evil, as they are. But taking “the full measure of human depravity” also means the measure that is within us, and to see also our complicity and embeddedness in the structures of sin that perpetuate harm and abuse to self, kin, groups, ecosystems.
The cross is God’s confrontation of our endless appetite for accumulation with a sacrificial act of dispossession. The cross is God’s salve for our chronic self-destruction and proclivities to war with his relinquishment of defenses and submission to peace. The cross is God’s shaming of our manipulative grabs for power with a faith-filled obedience.