For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified. — 1 Corinthians 2:2, NRSV
A lot of people praise what’s known as “common sense.” It’s a slippery concept that is popularly described as the cure for many of today’s issues. For too many people, there is a particular way the world works, and the best we can do is resign ourselves to it.
Now don’t get me wrong. You shouldn’t stick a fork into an electrical outlet. Trying to capture a rattlesnake by hand is also a horrible idea. I’m not saying we should live in ignorance of particular facts of life. Electricity and rattlesnakes can kill you. Just imagine if there were electric rattlesnakes…
What I do have a problem with is our all too common practice of merely accepting the world as it is and propping up its unhealthy practices because we don’t believe there to be an alternative. War is just what happens. Politics are dirty. Violence is a necessary evil. You get the idea.
What Paul gives us in 1 Corinthians 2 is an alternative way of thinking… assuming we decide to embrace the idea of spiritual truth. You see, in Paul’s time, the Romans and Jewish authorities each believed the world worked in one particular way. Romans saw things in terms of logical arguments, and Jewish authorities wanted to see miraculous signs of power (1 Corinthians 1:22-23). In this world, Caesar is king and the empire is true power… unless you’re Paul and the Christian community.
For those of the faith, a crucified carpenter was considered King above all, and it is in the flesh of this person that the power of God is revealed. This meant the emperor and his minions didn’t have the final word, and for all their killing, torture, and conquest, they would eventually have to pay the piper. There was an alternative to the way the world seemed to work, and this alternative was full of hope and peace for those who were able to embrace it.
Turning to our own time, this alternative still exists. Sure, it’s been buried under thousands of years of violence, oppression, abuse, and scandal. Whenever humans are involved with anything, sin lies close at hand. Underneath all of those layers, though, the truth that began a powerful, transformative movement still remains.
Our world accepts poverty, hatred, and wanton violence as unchangeable aspects of life. You either have to get on board or get out of the way. Even those who claim to be people of faith filter their religious practice through the lens of “realism.” We follow the faith insofar as it doesn’t become inconvenient for us, our loved ones, or our bank account.
To accept the alternative God gives us in Christ, though, we have to start seeing things differently. While worldly wisdom is concerned about the way things are, spiritual wisdom is concerned with the way the world should be. It doesn’t mean ignoring reality, but it does mean looking beyond what is in order to live for what could be. The truth of the Spirit is one we must fight for, and that is a battle that requires us to place our hope and trust in a different place.
Earthly wisdom would have us trust in ourselves, our weapons, and our fear. Spiritual wisdom asks us to trust in God, a reality that is beyond us, the Source of all being.
Earthly wisdom encourages us to look after our own interests. Spiritual wisdom has us look to the cross, where self-sacrifice is the key to meaningful relationships with God and each other.
Earthly wisdom sees victory in conquest and destruction of the enemy. Spiritual wisdom sees victory in love, even for those we don’t believe deserve it.
Earthly wisdom fears death above all else. Spiritual wisdom sees that love and forgiveness are things worth dying for.
Ultimately, the choice lies before each of us. Every decision and every interaction present us with an opportunity to embrace the truth of the Spirit. Day by day, we decide whether we will support the way things are or search out a better alternative. It is my prayer that you will join me in striving to think spiritually. Life in this world can be painful, but that doesn’t have to determine how we choose to live.
Peace be with you!