DayBreaks for 2/23/17: Why the Gospel Makes No Sense
1 Cor. 1:23 – (KJV) – But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness…
2 Cor. 2:15-16 (NLT) – Our lives are a fragrance presented by Christ to God. But this fragrance is perceived differently by those being saved and by those perishing. 16 To those who are perishing we are a fearful smell of death and doom. But to those who are being saved we are a life-giving perfume. And who is adequate for such a task as this?
If you listen to the hucksters on TV, the show that’s on Monday evenings called “Heroes” is a “smash hit.” Interesting. I’ll admit that I’ve seen it, and I do find it interesting – more for the characters than anything else (the story seems to drag on endlessly and I wonder if it will ever get to the climax of the story at all!) The premise of the show is that there are various people in the world who have some sort of super power to do different kinds of things – and they are all needed to save the world. The key seems to be a young blonde cheerleader who has the gift of being able to not be killed. She has even “killed” herself several times to prove to someone else that she has the gift – she’s thrown herself off towers, intentionally crashed her car, etc., and while she should be dead, she instantly “cures” and is fine. A bit far fetched? You bet it is.
And that’s just why the gospel is so hard for some folks to believe. It makes no sense. The passages above in Paul’s letters to the Corinthians describe the extremely difficult task of the gospel: to Jews, the crucifixion of Jesus was a stumblingblock because only the most perverse criminal would be hanged on a tree and the Messiah would never die anyway. To the Greeks, who were very logical thinkers that needed to understand the reason and logic behind something, to say that one other person’s death could remove all the sin of the entire world was ludicrous, foolish, if you will.
In the second passage, Paul says that our lives are a fragrance presented by Christ to God. It’s not a fragrance we present – Christ presents it, reminding us of the incense that would be burned in the temple that rose to God to please Him, symbolizing prayer. Our lives are to be a prayer to God, that Christ presents. But, just as not everyone likes the smell of Chanel No. 5, not all like the scent we give off. To those who are dying without Christ, we, well, how can I put this bluntly? We smell like dead, decaying flesh – repulsive, the kind of smell that would make anyone turn away and throw up. But those who are being drawn to God smell it as the sweetest, most precious perfume. And then the stunning question: Who is up to such a task?
Why doesn’t the gospel make sense? I think Andy Crouch hit it on the head when he summarized it in one sentence: “There is no culture where the gospels horizons make sense – because it starts with the resurrection of a dead man.” Why does Christianity smell like death? That’s why…it starts with a dead man – much like the little cheerleader who dies and comes back, and who would believe it? But somehow, some do…through the work and calling of the Spirit that transforms the smell of death into sweet perfume.
It’s not our job to make the gospel smell like perfume. It will smell like what it is to different people. The catch is that we never know who will smell it as perfume and who will perceive it as a foul stench. What if no one had told you about Christ crucified?
PRAYER: Our minds seek to understand and reason things out, Lord, and sometimes in so doing, we wind up destroying ourselves and others. Thank you that you have allowed us to smell the fragrance of life in Christ. Help us to carry that scent to others, trusting in you to make it beautiful. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Copyright 2017 by Galen Dalrymple.