Yesterday we looked at power. Today we will look at weakness.
One of the difficulties we face when we engage in the study of the bible is the use of juxtaposition. A juxtaposition is the comparison two ideas or concepts that are not related under normal circumstances, but whose connection makes the contrast more striking. The bible is full of these. A prime example of this is found in Paul’s second letter to the Corinthian church. This is what he says.
10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:10, NIV, emphasis added)
I may be the only one who thinks Paul is crazy, but how could he say this? What did he know that I do not? What had he seen or heard that could have lead him to this conclusion? Sure we can jump to the “Jesus knocked him of a horse” line, but I do not think this answers the question.
I think the problem we have in our modern time is the expectation of comfort and ease. This is particularly true in the United States. Privilege is not merely the luck of a few. It has become the right of all. We no longer understand one of the simple rules of life, we are not all promised prosperity. The fact that we enter into this world and will leave this world with nothing should stir us from the laziness we tend towards in our lives from time to time. We need to wake up to the fact that we are in no position to be demanding anything from anyone. We have to see that the only one who can make demands of this life is the one who has conquered death. There is only one person whom I know has done this!
Paul’s words are a stark and unyielding reminder that weakness, rather than robbing us, actually opens our eyes to what we truly have. When I understand my weakness I am freed from the pressures imposed on me from exterior agents because I have nothing that can be taken. Actually, when I have accepted weakness, especially the kind of weakness Paul is describing, we are saying that the result, the effect is NOT within my prerogative to address. And that’s a good thing.
I think what Paul offers us is a different path than the one offered by the systems and philosophies of this world. Paul is encouraging us to cease from striving for the pleasures and amenities of this world; to stop trying to lift ourselves by our proverbial boot straps. The weakness Paul demonstrated was based in the certainty of another’s strength. This is the mystery and this is the secret Paul gives us access to.
Therefore, the questions we must ask ourselves are these: Why am so afraid of being seen as weak? What do I have to let go of (that I probably should let go of anyway) that is and has been keeping me from fully trusting God?
Weakness, within the Christian context ultimately is not about us. The reality is this, our weakness is an opportunity for God to show himself faithful to his word, his character and his people. When I am strong I have no need of him. Well, at least that is what I tell myself to continue in self-reliance and, at the root of it all, sin.