1 Corinthians 1:17-25

When Paul asserts that the cross is a symbol of power, some think he sounds ridiculous. As he acknowledges, the cross is a stumbling block to the Jewish people of his day and complete foolishness to the Gentiles. 

Now, two thousand years later, we still have trouble seeing the cross as a symbol of power. Dollar bills, guns, judicial robes, and marching armies are the images of power that we usually acknowledge. I think of those as symbols of right-handed power—the power to force, intimidate, and defeat others.

But right-handed power isn’t sufficient for most of the tasks of life. If we want to mend a broken heart, write a poem, teach a child to read, or reconcile a friendship, right-handed power is useless. We need left-handed power—a power that seeks to support rather than rule over. Left-handed power serves, listens, sacrifices, and suffers when necessary. 

The power of the cross that Paul describes in these verses is the ultimate example of left-handed power. He brings it up when addressing the church conflict in Corinth because it is the only kind of power capable of healing that conflict. Pushing, shoving, dominating, and shouting will never cure the problems of the Corinthian church. Serving, listening, sacrificing, and suffering just might. 

In his second letter to the church at Corinth, Paul will remind them that “everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new” (2 Cor 5:17). For all of us who serve Christ, one of the things that has become new is our understanding of the word “power.” 


What does “power” mean to you? How does your faith affect the way you define it?


God, show me how to use left-handed power in my life. Then give me the grace to practice it. Amen.

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