Philippians 3:18 - For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ.
Paul was strong enough to survive shipwrecks, stonings and earthquakes. He crossed deserts and sailed the seas. By God's grace, he endured hunger, poverty and spectrums of bad weather.
Still, he says, knowing some people were enemies of the cross reduced him to tears.
Years ago, when I first read those words, I wondered why would anybody consider a cross to be their enemy? After all, nobody considers a triangle to be their foe; nobody hates circles or squares. Why should a cross be a bother?
That's what I continued to wonder until, well, it couldn't be more than a few years ago, I watched a two-year-old boy play. He had just reached that advanced stage in life when his brain told him he was faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.
Of course, the family's living room had no speeding bullets to race or powerful locomotives against which he could test his strength. This family didn't even have any tall buildings to leap.
In fact, the only thing that looked leapable was the coffee table.
That's how -- beginning back in the dining room -- the boy took a running start. He raced around the corner, past dad's La-Z-Boy, and then launched himself up, up and away. Not having had much experience in leaping coffee tables, the boy caught his foot on the way up and his elbow on the way down. He gave vent to his pain with tons of tears, a veritable tsunami of sobs.
His mother, seeing what had happened, picked him up and did something which struck me as being rather unusual. While her boy was calming down, she said, "That was a bad coffee table, wasn't it? Maybe we should spank the bad coffee table." And she did. Four times she hit the coffee table saying, "Bad coffee table. Bad. Bad. Bad."
But I left having learned something. I learned that coffee tables and crosses, when left on their own, are pretty inoffensive and unthreatening. But sometimes things happen that transform them. For the boy, that coffee table meant he wasn't superman.
I imagine it's not much different for people who are living their lives as enemies of the cross. I mean, think about it. A cross on its own has nothing that should make anyone love it or hate it. But 2,000 years ago, on a skull-shaped hill outside of Jerusalem, God's Son gave His life to rescue the world's sinners. That day, the cross was, for all time, transformed. Since that day, Jesus' cross exposes us for who we really are: hopeless, helpless sinners in need of a Savior.
Now you may consider yourself to be self-sufficient, self-motivated, a self-starter, and self-contained. The cross tells you that you're not. On His cross, Jesus did something you could not: He paid the price for your sins.
The cross was changed and you can rejoice in God's gracious change, or you can be, as St. Paul says, an enemy of the cross.
THE PRAYER: Dear Lord, grant that all the enemies of the cross may be transformed by the coming of the Holy Spirit. Touch their hearts so they may repent and be saved. In Jesus' Name I ask it. Amen.
In Christ I remain His servant and yours,
Pastor Ken Klaus
Speaker emeritus of The Lutheran Hour®
Lutheran Hour Ministries