In 1 Corinthians 2, Paul says this:
And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.
Sunday morning, my pastor read this quote as part of a sermon series on the importance of the Cross. One truly captivating part of reading God’s Word over the course of time is how at just the right time, His word can grab your heart and not let go. Paul, a man of great knowledge of doctrine and boldness of speech, tells this church he didn’t want to be known as a great speaker, or writer, or theologian, or man. He wanted to be known not at all. He wanted Christ known.
I’ve had a long running battle with pride, as we all do. I have to be so very careful in all I do, including this blog, to not place myself on a pedestal. I do not deserve acclaim or praise, because what am I? If Paul doesn’t deserve praise, then by easy math neither does Adam. And like Paul, I also have had to learn the consequences of pride, and it is not an easy pill.
Pride is so fundamental to American culture. We are a boasting people now, and in some ways we have reason. Americans have done wonderful, powerful and amazing things. We’ve made the world a better place.
But our country also has done horrible, shameful things. This is true of all nations in all times, and it is true of all peoples in all times. What Paul understood (and by Grace, what Paul taught us) is that we are nothing without the cross.
And so Paul, this highly-educated and accomplished man, says:
For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.
A mentor of mine has worked on me for a few months about the necessity of self-denial. I’m terrible at it. In my deepest core, I’m Tony Stark without the accomplishments. That is the, as my sunday school teacher puts it, old man I must put down each morning.
That old man is why I must beat my body in order to claim the prize. Because if I don’t, he will come alive. And if he comes alive, I am forced to re-learn lessons I should already know. I’ve frankly just grown tired with that.