For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, 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 1:22-25
The European Court of Human Rights.
Before last week I had never heard of the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights. Even so, but my ignorance didn't stop that court from deciding Italy has to pay a fine of $7,390 to a mother who wanted crucifixes removed from her children's public school classrooms.
The court rejected the Italian government's argument that the crucifix is a national symbol of culture, history, identity, tolerance, and secularism. The court preferred to embrace the position that maintained the crucifix could easily be disturbing to non-Christian or atheist students.
The court's decision has not gone without a challenge.
Reverend Frederico Lombardi, spokesman for the Vatican said the court got it all wrong. The crucifix is a sign of the importance of religious values in Italian history and culture and therefore is a symbol of unity and welcoming for all humanity. It most certainly is not, Lombardi said, a symbol of exclusion.
What? This is nuts! If I'm hearing things correctly, the Church is declaring the cross and crucifix are just an all-inclusive, non-offensive cultural and historical symbol, while the secular court is maintaining the cross and crucifix send a powerful message of Jesus' suffering and death -- a message which the unbelieving world will find offensive.
It's a strange world when the Church minimizes the impact of Christ's cross and the secular court emphasizes the power of what happened on Calvary.
As for me, I think Paul had it right when he wrote to the Corinthian church. Those words of the apostle, which serve as the basis of today's devotion, tell it the way it is: the cross of Jesus, when coupled with the Savior's victorious resurrection from the dead, will always be insulting and offensive, foolishness and folly to the unbelievers of the world.
At the same time, for believers the cross and the empty tomb are the greatest proof we have of God's gracious intent to save us, and the power, which has made the Lord's intent into reality.
And although it may mean losing the case, I'd sure encourage the Church to say it the way it is: Jesus' cross is offensive to some, foolishness to others, and salvation to all who believe.
THE PRAYER: Dear Lord, how strange it is the unbelieving world often recognizes the power and importance of the Savior's cross and empty tomb better than Christians do. Please, send Your Holy Spirit upon our churches so we may proclaim the power of Christ crucified and risen. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
In Christ I remain His servant and yours,
Pastor Ken Klaus
Speaker emeritus of The Lutheran Hour®
Lutheran Hour Ministries