The Tragedy of God

by Jeff Walsh

As followers of Christ, we are not to be of the world. However, like foreigners in a strange land, we are to live within the world (John 17:15-16). This creates an unsettling tension in the Christian life. There’s a sense in which we are to speak a different language (with our words and actions) from the world around us. Yet the world exerts a consistent gravitational pull on our hearts and minds.

In his letter to the Galatian Christians, the apostle Paul shows the impact of the cross of Christ on this tension. Some leaders were preaching the necessity of circumcision and following the Old Testament Law for the Christian life. Paul says their motive in doing so was to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ (Galatians 6:12). To avoid the cross by focusing on other things is to empty the cross of its power (1 Corinthians 1:17). To Paul this is an impotent faith in Christ and amounts to really no faith at all. By contrast, Paul forcefully asserts, “But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Galatians 6:14).

The cross was at the center of Paul’s life and ministry. He refused to boast about anything but the cross. To Paul the world and all its deceptive attractiveness died on the cross with Christ. The cross killed the world for Paul. Similarly, from the world’s point of view, Paul was dead. Therefore, he could say, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Galatians 2:20). The cross made Paul belong to Christ. It will do the same for you and me.

All worldly self-assertion, pride, and any other sinful motive melts away when we live at the foot of the cross. Because of the cross, we belong to Christ. It is a sure indicator that we are no longer living daily at the foot of the cross when the world begins to seize us in its gravitational pull. We lose Christ’s power when we take our eyes off the cross. Oswald Chambers once wrote:

“If you want to know the power of God (that is, the resurrection life of Jesus) in your human flesh, you must dwell on the tragedy of God. Break away from your personal concern over your own spiritual condition, and with a completely open spirit consider the tragedy of God. Instantly the power of God will be in you.”

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