The Most Beautiful Thing
Generally speaking, we’re drawn to beautiful things.
Without creating a lengthy list, I think we are safe to presume billions of dollars are spent annually in an effort to make people, places, and things beautiful. Advertising agencies pull out every imaginable stop to make them attractive, alluring, or appealing to the casual consumer.
It’s been a joy to watch the construction project – a new foyer and the new resource center – at our church take shape; beautifully finished spaces for God’s people to use in the work of ministry. The architecture, the trim work – as a woodworker by hobby I can appreciate the cabinetry and furniture and shelving.
So you can imagine my surprise this week…
Tuesday morning I walked into the foyer space and first I noticed the new light fixtures hanging from the ceiling; beautiful six ribbed orbs with bright candelabra style lighting. Very trendy and artistic indeed.
Then I turned and shuddered, startled.
What is that?!
Truly it took me the full breadth of a good long a moment to visually assemble the display: A long narrow cardboard box fastened to the wall with long narrow brown shipping paper cutouts taped above it.
Goodnight! I thought to myself. That is ugly! Maybe the ugliest cross I have seen.
I walked away, unable to look back, thankful it’ll be replaced soon by a more delightful and appealing work of art.
But then – and it took this slow guy a few days – but then the irony of the whole thing struck me: How ugly the cross of my Savior surely was.
Horrifying it must have been to watch men and women die on a cross. Scrap wood pulled from a cast-off heap of timbers, bound together to torture the dregs of society; the cross, an emblem of suffering and shame.
Yet true as it was, the irony is that such an ugly implement might speak so great a word!
The Apostle Paul says, “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, ESV, emphasis mine)
The word of the cross is this:
Jesus Christ, Son of God,
crucified for the forgiveness of sin
and redemption from death to life.
Again… Jesus Christ, Son of God, crucified for the forgiveness of sin and redemption from death to life.
To the unbelieving world, that doesn’t make any sense. Salvation – forgiveness and redemption – by death ON A CROSS? Really? Foolishness!
Well, yes… But “God chose things the world considers foolish – like a cross – in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless – like a cross – to shame those who are powerful. God chose things despised by the world; things counted as nothing at all – like a splintering wooden cross – and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important.” (1 Corinthians 1:27-28, NLT, emphasis added)
Maybe a cardboard box and a few cutout strips of brown shipping paper are a rather fitting cross to display in our foyer? Lest we boast in any other beauty than that of our crucified Lord.