As I've mentioned to you, I'm writing a novel for the NaNoWriMo site, and this morning I realized that writing a novel fits the same description that C. S. Lewis gave to Christianity: it's hard and it's easy. It's hard because I neglect everything else in my life, but it's easy because I have a lot to say. It would have been better, I think now, not to have started the blog at all, but it's too late now, and who knows, it might have been the impetus I needed to write publicly. For now, we must make do!
Chapter nine of Meeting God in Quiet Places by F. LaGard Smith is titled "Jumbo the Elephant." The parable in this chapter talks about faith, using the heroism of an elephant named Jumbo. The story that LaGard tells visitors is both entertaining and somewhat believable...at least people believe it at first. When he has visitors, he takes them for walks in the hills, and it's inevitable that they see a large, grass-covered mound bulging out of the ground. It's at least 15 by 25 feet across and is fenced in to protect it. Almost everyone wants to know what it is. And the story that LaGard tells is that in the 1930s, Jumbo the elephant came to town with a circus. There was a fire and Jumbo lifted a beam from the Mayor's body during a fire and saved his life. But the effort and excitement was too much for Jumbo and he died. The town council were so appreciative of what Jumbo did that they gave him a proper burial, so his body was carried to the top of the hill in Buckland and put in a grave overlooking Evesham, where the circus had been. The story is always believed, at least for a moment. It seems that people want to believe the story because it's a great story if it's true, and it involves a circus. Who doesn't love a circus?
The question is this: Is there something of Jumbo in the Gospel accounts? Jesus was thrilling crowds with His miracles, whether He was turning water to wine, healing the sick, raising the dead, or walking on water, nothing was too difficult for Him. The people loved it and wanted to make Him King. They wanted to believe in this wonder-working man because they loved His show, much like a circus. And nothing has changed today. Christmas and Easter still pull in the crowds.
So the next question is: Why did Paul talk so much about "Christ crucified?" He could have talked about Christ's birth, or His resurrection, or even His ascension. The crucifixion seems so negative. It seemed to defeat everything they had come to believe. Because Jesus's own disciples didn't understand the cross at first. They had been envisioning Jesus as King--a political King--with high positions in the kingdom for themselves. They were looking for the spectacular. They felt the same disillusionment at the foot of the cross that people do today when the very thing that attracted them to Christianity turns out to be just that...an illusion. The magic is gone and the reality becomes apparent--emptiness and foolishness. The show is over.
So where does that leave us? Here we are, hanging in with Christianity, when we suddenly find ourselves bearing a cross! We too find that we have been betrayed by friends and rejected by those who ought to love us most. We too have times of suffering--from literal pain or from the pain of separation from a loved one. These are moments when we feel powerless, helpless, and vulnerable to situations around us that we can't control.
And these are also the times--times when we find ourselves feeling fearful, alone, and helpless--that we turn to hear what Paul has to say: "The foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength." It's incredible to understand that because of His own crucifixion, Jesus knows exactly how we feel! During these times, He lifts us up--He on His cross, we on ours.
What else does the cross of Jesus do for us? When you hear a problem-free gospel being preached, the cross of Christ sorts out idealism and realism in our walk as Christians. As LaGard says: "The cross points out the difference between how we want to believe the Christian life will be and how it is in truth. We want wholeness, but we find that very wholeness in our brokenness. We want strength, but we discover that our strength comes only through our weakness."
Hmmm...we don't really like weakness, do we? But there is more to this picture than I've explained so far, so tune in for more answers tomorrow. I hope and pray you'll have a wonderful weekend, and that you remember to thank God every day of your life.