“Practice what you preach!”  “Who are you to preach at me?”  “You’re preaching to the choir.”  Have you noticed that preaching has a very negative, or at the very least a legalistic connotation?  For each phrase, can you imagine what the preacher was preaching?  A preacher who preaches on the sin of drunkenness might be seen at Applebee’s with a Big Brutus Beer (or whatever they call it) and someone might say to him “You should practice what you preach.”  Or we might reprimand a youth for making fun of another youth, but just yesterday he heard you laughing at an obnoxious confirmation student, to which he might say “Who are you to preach at me?”  Or I might tell you that sacrifice is part of the Christian life, and it is important for you to give up some worldly possession so as to better serve God, and you might say “Matt, I AM sacrificing…I am a youth worker with few worldly possessions and even less money.  You’re preaching to the choir.”

The dangers of alcoholism, the importance of self-sacrifice, and respecting your neighbor (even the obnoxious confirmation student) are not bad things to talk about, or even to preach.  But they are all messages of the law, and if that is all that is preached, we set ourselves up to be labeled a hypocrite.  If we preach the law to the self-righteous who have been there, done that, got the t-shirt, we run the risk of leading them to believe that they are OK the way they are, that nothing needs to be changed, and that if only more people were like them the world would be a better place.  Preaching the law has its place, but you can see why it’s a risky business.

So what SHOULD we preach?  Paul sets us straight.

But we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, –1 Corinthians 1:23

Preach Christ crucified.  Sound simple enough?  Preaching Christ crucified means telling others that Jesus Christ died on the cross, why his death on the cross was necessary, and what that means to us in our daily life and for eternity.  It means preaching the law to show us our sin, and preaching Christ crucified to show us where our sin is – on the cross with him!  Preaching Christ crucified means that we preach (and practice) Christ’s forgiveness in all aspects of our daily lives.  We proclaim what the old camp song says, “He hung upon a cross for you and me!”  When we preach the gospel – Christ crucified – no one can throw it back in our face.  When we preach “CHRIST crucified” we don’t have to let our imperfect life stop us from sharing what we should be preaching.  Jesus lived the perfect life for us.  HE’s doing the dying, rising, forgiving, and the saving.  We don’t have to worry about people asking us “Who are YOU to preach to ME?”  It doesn’t matter who I am…it matters who Christ is.  And the gospel is not exclusive, but has good news for everyone, even “the choir” you are preaching to.

May God empower and enable us to preach Christ crucified in all we say and do.