To follow up on my last article on the offense of the cross, here are some words of wisdom from the late British theologian and biblical scholar John R.W. Stott.
Stott wrote in his book, The Cross of Christ why the cross offends many around us.
“What is there about the cross of Christ which angers the world and stirs them up to persecute those who preach it? Just this: Christ died on the cross for us sinners, becoming a curse for us (Gal. 3:13). So the cross tells us some very unpalatable truths about ourselves, namely that we are sinners under the righteous curse of God’s law and we cannot save ourselves. Christ bore our sin and curse precisely because we could gain release from them in no other way. If we could have been forgiven by our own good works, by being circumcised and keeping the law, we may be quite sure that there would have been no cross. Every time we look at the cross Christ seems to say to us, ‘I am here because of you. It is your sin I am bearing, your curse I am suffering, your debt I am paying, your death I am dying.’ Nothing in history or in the universe cuts us down to size like the cross. All of us have inflated views of ourselves, especially in self-righteousness, until we have visited a place called Calvary. It is there, at the foot of the cross, that we shrink to our true size. And of course men do not like it. They resent the humiliation of seeing themselves as God sees them and as they really are. They prefer their comfortable illusions. So they steer clear of the cross. They construct a Christianity without the cross, which relies for salvation on their works and not on Jesus Christ’s. They do not object to Christianity so long as it is not the faith of Christ crucified. But Christ crucified they detest. And if preachers preach Christ crucified, they are opposed, ridiculed, persecuted. Why? Because of the wounds which they inflict on men’s pride.”
The cross means our self-righteousness doesn’t cut it, and that drives many religious and non-religious people nuts. It signifies they are not in control, and that there is nothing they can do to find themselves approved by God. The Apostle Paul said himself that if he were no longer being persecuted then the offense of the cross must have been removed, (Galatians 5:11). I wonder how much in our consumer church culture we consider this? In our quest to be relevant have we removed the offense?
It’s good news, but it is also offensive news to the haughty.