For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. –1 Corinthians 1:18
Everyone judges. We can’t help it. It doesn’t matter if you’re religious or not, everyone is judging other people and making distinctions.
And we usually judge along some curve of morality or justice (though we define these in differing ways): at one end we put Hitler and at the other we put Mother Theresa, and we subconsciously place everyone somewhere along this spectrum.
Of course, we place ourselves closer to Mother Theresa. And then we make sure to keep in mind a few people lower on the scale so that we can feel good about ourselves (“I may not be perfect, but at least I’m not like them!”).
But this is not how God sees humanity. The question is not, “How well do you stack up against those around you?” And it’s not even, “How good of a person are you?”
And the reason these are not the ultimate questions is because the ultimate standard is God’s perfection and no one matches up. No one gives the God the honor and worship He deserves as Creator, Sustainer, Judge, and Savior.
Rather, the question that ultimately matters, the question that divides humanity is, “What is your view of the cross? Do you see your desperate need for the grace and salvation it offers? Do you put your full and daily confidence in Jesus’ work on the cross?”
That’s what the Apostle Paul is saying in this verse. He splits humanity into two groups: those who are perishing and those who are being saved. And he says the thing that separates these two groups is their view of the cross.
Those who are perishing view the cross as foolish. They think this message about a man claiming to be God and then dying on a cross is silly, offensive, or simply irrelevant. They don’t understand why anyone would make this the focus of their religion and lives.
And yet that’s exactly how the other group views the cross: as the very power and wisdom of God, the essence of their religion, and the ground of their hope and life.
In other words, Christians are not ultimately defined by their impressive morality, their lack of really bad sins, their voting record, their stands for justice, or their biblical or theological knowledge.
Christians are defined by their clinging to the cross as their only hope in life and death. Christians are those who bring to the cross all their sin, shame, and guilt. Christians are those who see in Jesus’ death on the cross the very power and wisdom of God to save sinners.
Christians are those who boast singularly in the cross—what God has graciously done for them—and give up all boasting in themselves.