The theology of the cross gives us a paradigm for witness, friendship, and support in the normal routines and in the emergencies of those around us. The Lord calls us into their lives to embody the Living Presence of his love.
As Paul sketched his theology of the cross, above all in the first two chapters of his first epistle to the Corinthians, we see that this paradigm for Christian realism first of all defines who God is for us. He is not some hidden form, whose plans and counsels we can only dimly sense.
The God hidden behind his own majesty and glory is a god shaped in our own image, as Feuerbach observed. The only God we know is the one whose righteousness-whose right way of being God-is revealed in the sacrificial love of the blood-drenched cross. The only God there is appears to us as the kid in the crib, the criminal on the cross, the corpse in the crypt. The fullness of God was pleased to dwell in the one who reconciles all things to himself by making peace through the blood of his very own cross (Col. 1:19-20).
Second, the paradigm of the cross defines who we are. We are those people who know ourselves only when we come to see that we are sinners, justifiably forsaken by God and utterly vulnerable to death. We see our reflection in the image of a dying incarnate God (Mark 15:34).
Third, the cross shows us the way back to life: through faith-alone! Neither empirical proof nor rational proof will place us in the hands of God; these epistemologies serve well on earth, but they place the object of our search for knowledge under the dominion of our own minds.
God maintains his Lordship over our minds. He speaks his promise of life from the cross. This promise elicits and creates faith. God destroys the wisdom of the wise and thwarts the discernment of the discerning; he saves those who believe, through the proclamation of Christ crucified (1 Cor. 1:18-25).
Fourth, the cruciform paradigm reveals how God restores life: by letting the law pay us the full wages our sinfulness has earned us (Rom. 6:23a), by burying us as sinners in Christ’s tomb and thereby giving us life again as an absolutely free gift-genuine human life (Rom. 6:4, 23b).
Finally, the theology of the cross presents us with the way in which we live our lives in him. Our resurrected life as God’s new instruments of righteousness is a life which bears crosses for others—for the sake of Christ (Matt. 16:24).
We evaluate our success neither in terms of how many blessings we experience nor in terms of how much suffering we have endured. Rather, we find satisfaction in serving up the love of Christ to those who are thirsting for love, as God places them in our paths.
Robert Kolb is a professor emeritus of Systematic Theology at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri.
Adapted from Adapted from Robert Kolb, “Is Anybody Home: What To Do When It Seems Like God Isn’t There,” Modern Reformation, July/August 1997. Used by permission.