Sandy Seventh-day Adventist Church

Hope and Healing For All People

The Cross as a Way of Life

A central theme of Paul’s preaching was “Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor 2:2). For many, the message of the cross has been reduced to an abstract theory—Jesus died for my sins; if I believe in him, I will receive forgiveness and go to heaven. But the message of the cross was not good news about how I go to heaven. It was a transformative and life-changing principle. It affected every aspect of life—relationships, vocation, finances, time management, etc. It was to be lived, not just believed intellectually. Rather than wearing a cross around his neck, Paul was “always carrying in the body the death of Jesus” (2 Cor 4:10). 

In what way was Paul carrying in his body the death of Jesus? “For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake…” (vs 11). Why would Paul give himself “over to death for Jesus’ sake”? Paul’s self-giving posture results in “life for you… it is all for your sake…” (vs 12, 15). 

Paul unpacks what he means by dying for “Jesus’ sake” in his earlier letter to the Corinthians: “To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things” (1 Cor 4:11-13). Paul’s labor of love for the Corinthians was marked “by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger” (2 Cor 6:4-5).

Paul invited the Corinthians to live a life characterized by sacrifice when he said, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (1 Cor 11:1). In context, Paul was inviting the Corinthians to surrender their rights for the good of others. “Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor…just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved” (1 Cor 10:24, 33). 

Paul’s letters to the Corinthians were not written as abstract theological statements. They addressed concrete pastoral problems that arose in the churches/communities he had organized. The message of the crucified Jesus addressed the particular problems of conduct faced by his infant congregations. Should they eat foods offered to idols? Should converts to Jesus divorce their unbelieving spouse? How should meals at the gathering of believers be organized? 

Towards the end of the letter, Paul talks about love, which was embodied in the most vivid way on the cross by Jesus. For Paul this is the answer to every behavioral and ethical problem in Corinth. “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Cor 13:4-7).

Paul’s vision of the cross as a way of life (lifestyle) rather than an abstract theological concept is in agreement with Jesus, who said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Lk 9:23).

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