Franciscan University of Steubenville (Ohio), a catholic college, explained recently on its website that it had posted a series of ads to promote its MA Theology and MA Catechetics and Evangelization programs, including one image featuring the San Damiano Cross with a crucified Jesus. The administrator of the page received a notification from Facebook explaining the image was banned: “Your image, video thumbnail or video can’t contain shocking, sensational or excessively violent content.”
The college acknowledged that the crucifixion described a man “executed God.” It added, “It was shocking, yes: God designed to take on flesh and was obedient unto death, even death on a cross’ (Phil. 2:8). Obviously Facebook has little regard for a central tenant of historic Christianity. Rather Facebook would see the cross as foolishness, choosing to reject the symbol of a crucified Jesus. Paul warned us, “The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! (I Cor. 1:18) But he adds, “We who are being saved know it is the very power of God” (I Cor. 1:18).
Paul insisted that he would “preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles…. for the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength (I Cor. 1:23 & 25). Writing to the Corinthians he vowed, “I decided that while I was with you I would forget everything except Jesus Christ, the one who was crucified” ( I Cor. 2:2). Corinth was a very cosmopolitan city with all the notoriety of a port city, widely known for prostitution and other vices. There was even a verb in Greek, “to act like a Corinthian” that referred to sexual immorality.
In this milieu, much like life in contemporary America, Paul proclaimed Christ crucified. It was the “Good News” they needed to hear. For Paul was convinced that, “Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God” ( I Cor. 1:23). The evidence was found in Jesus’ death on the cross. “This foolish plan of God is wiser than the wisest of human plans, and God’s weakness is stronger than the greatest of human strength” ( I Cor. 1:25).
Men, Facebook’s rejection of the cross is clear evidence of how much our culture has lost awareness of the “Good News.” The bad news is observed daily on Facebook, especially in the portrayal of broken relationships. There can be no Good News without a violent crucifixion. Without the substitutionary death of Jesus on the Cross, there would be no hope for the human condition. But God, by entering fully into the human condition in Jesus, took upon himself the awful burden of sin, providing us salvation. “And he personally bore our sins in his own body on the cross, so that we might be dead to sin and be alive to all that is good. It was the suffering that he bore which has healed you” (I Peter 2: 24 – Phillips).
This incident with Facebook should actually be an encouragement to followers of Jesus. Our culture is longing for some good news. Is there a solution to our human predicament that seems only to be getting worse? Like the Moravians, we are followers of the lamb who was slain. God sacrificed his only Son, so that we might have good news to share. “The whole outlook changes – sin used to be the master of men and in the end handed them over to death; now grace is the ruling factor, with its purpose making men right with God and its end the bringing of them to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” ( Rom. 5:21 – Phillips).