by Peeter Lukas
“For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” I Corinthians 2:2
I, like many others, have listened to a lot – a lot – of news these past weeks. A few days ago I wrote a list of what I call “media saturated themes.” For example, each issue seems to have a jagged point/counterpoint quality to it. There are always experts who embody the words of Ecclesiastes 12:12 – “…Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh.” There’s “heat” and “light” in the many words (I wonder what percentage of each). And much of today’s news by next week will be old and revised.
Pat Quinn, our director of counseling, has said that issues of anxiety, depression, and conflict take up much of his counseling schedule. I grieve much these days for those in the throes of being preoccupied with these burdens. It’s beyond a cliché to say that these overloaded times are “unique days.” I might nuance that phrase with one word – our unique days. Unique for us but not wholly to history.
The Apostle Paul followed the verse above with this: “And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling,…” These aren’t the words of a man with mere flutters of queasy nervousness. He had stayed and taught and knew these Corinthians for 18 months (Acts 18:1-18). Commentators don’t hand out kind words in describing the city of Corinth. One writes that it was a “mass of Jews, ex-soldiers, philosophers, merchants, sailors, freedmen, slaves, trade-people, hucksters and agents of every form of vice”; And of the church itself? “…snobbishness, factionalism, insensitivity to other beliefs, doctrinal looseness, and over exuberance all flourished in the Corinthian church.”
Paul weighed the ethical decay of these people rightly.
But there’s more. 1 Corinthians 1:22,23 – “For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ…” The Jews wanted LARGE signs that suited their notions of an all-conquering Messiah; the Greeks wanted LARGE signs for the purpose of self-congratulation. It all sounds so contemporary doesn‘t it? So-called experts, then and now, and everyone doing what‘s right in their own eyes.
The circumstances could have overwhelmed Paul. Instead, he pointed his compass to true north with five words: “…Jesus Christ and him crucified.” J.I. Packer once summed up the Reformed faith in two words: “God saves.” Too simplistic, you say? Paul responds to the same objection: “…Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (1 Corinthians 1:24,25). The Christians of URC aren’t perfect, but our all-powerful and all-wise God is.
In the days and months to come we will have many opportunities to speak of Christ to others. Our words may come in the context of anxiety or depression or conflict. The fearful shopper, the person who has “tapped out” from the endless debates, the child who sees that their parents are “different” from their neighbor’s parents. I know that life is more complex than “take two pills and call me in the morning” but we will never move beyond “Jesus Christ and him crucified.” Deeper, yes. Beyond, never!