The Poor and the Message of the Cross

Church historian Dale Irvin notes,

The story of a powerless Jesus who was dishonored in his own land but was raised up by God resonates with people who faced similar challenges and conflicts in their own lives…The regularity with which the theme shows up in early Christian preaching is an indication of its effectiveness in reaching people.

Dale Irvin, History of the World Christian Movement

I never thought about the missiological-effectiveness implications of the message of salvation that came from Jesus dying on the cross until this historian pointed it out. He’s suggesting that the reason why most of the Christians in the first century (and also today!) were the poor and maligned classes of society was because the gospel inherently speaks to them.

It speaks to the poor, the powerless, the marginalized in more natural ways than it speaks to people who are rich, in power, and are affluent in society. That’s because they can identify with a poor Jesus, they can identify with the powerless Jesus who was exalted by God, the victim Jesus, and the Jesus who was spit on and tortured. This God of the Bible speaks more naturally to them than it does to myself and many of my friends (middle class privileged Americans).

I think this is why Paul suggests in 1 Cor that the message of the cross is foolishness to the “wise of the world”. God, in his wisdom, by virtue of the gospel message, would see that the poor and the maligned of our societies will be exalted in his kingdom.

Phillip Chan

Phil has been writing for 10 years. His passion is to grow in his love for Jesus to obey his purposes in our generation.

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