When I am weak, then I am strong.
II Cor. 12:10 (NIV)
Not exactly a favorite verse for most Christians. No one wants to be weak, or thought of as weak. One of the unwritten rules of life is that we are expected to take care of ourselves. To be strong. To take care of business. After all, God helps those who help themselves, right? Not exactly.
It may be weak to be weak but it is not weak to side with the needy when you, yourself, are strong. To identify with them, to take upon yourself their weakness is to be like Christ.
How often have we felt overwhelmed by the needs of others, especially those who don´t seem capable of standing on their own two feet. We feel that wave of dispair, and fear, wash over us because we know that we don´t have the ability to meet their need, to solve their problems, to save them.
And that is the way it should be. It is true that we are not the Savior, that Jesus is the one who saves all of us, that a Savior complex is unhealthy.
But it is also true that Jesus saves people through the cross in the context of relationships. He made it quite clear that, in terms of circumstances, clothing, food, drink, shelter, he “saves” people, blesses people through us.
So we cannot escape along that route. Jesus saves “creationally” through us. So a few more things need to be said.
On the one hand, we are not called to save our brothers and sisters alone, as individuals. There is a community responsibility which is rooted in the plain teaching of scripture about the priority of the poor and God´s preference for the least, the last, the lost and the loser.
On the other hand, of course we feel powerless to make a difference and scared at the price that we might have to pay to meet their need. And yes, we are called to that kind of complete, poverty inducing, self-sacrifice on behalf of others (whether or not the community also responds).
We must treat our brothers and sisters as they are in Christ. What you do for the least of these my brothers, you do it unto me, Jesus said. There is no way to escape that truth.
But even further, we fear because we are not yet convinced that God is our provider and protector.
Or maybe we are, but we also know that he has another agenda, for our eternal good, in which He is more than willing to sacrifice our convenience in this life in order to accomplish a more basic and important good related to our relationship with him. God uses desert when we prefer the promised land. Exactly. And we don´t like it. We are not in alignment with His purposes, His priorities, His agenda.
But, in the end, there is a final truth that is revealed when we are faced with the needs of the weak, the needy, the least, the loser.
The truth that we are powerless and that we lead powerless lives. We are not fully surrendered. We are not fully identified with Christ. We have not learned to become desert warriors dedicated to the centrality, necessity and value of the cross in our lives. We have no power because we are not willing to pay the price for that power. The power of love, the power of the favor of God is relational. Always has been and always will be. Marriage is not much different. But, then again, very few people have much power in their marriages either which is why so many (including my first marriage) fall apart.
Truth is revealed in how we deal with the poor and the needy. The truth about community. The truth about sacrifice and the truth about power (or the lack of power) in our lives. Community, sacrifice and power. But there is more.
How we deal with the weak, and the truths revealed in our attitude toward the weak, reveals to us our own weakness and the illusion of what we call strength. In the eyes of God we are all weak and needy and unwise and full of sin addiction and rebellion. He draws near in the community of the godhead, with great sacrifice and power and he transforms the human heart – for all of us.
He prefers the weak and sides with them and identifies with them in Christ through the cross and his strength becomes theirs and their weakness becomes his.
When we accept our weakness and therefore our need for his community, his sacrifice, his power, we are humbled by the awareness of our sin and rebellion as well as the depths of his grace in spite of our sin, to transform our sin into glory.
When we identify with him as he identifies with us, in full surrender, and in humility, acting as he acts, with his priorities, passions, and purposes, then his strength becomes ours and he can act through us and in us and therefore, in that place of anointing, in him, we can do all things (that he asks of us). Philippians 4:13 NIV
He asks us to identify with the poor and the needy. Period.
Of course we can´t do it on our own. Of course, his command reveals the weakness of our individuality, our fear of sacrifice and our powerlessness. He reveals it so that it can be dealt with at the foot of the cross in confession and repentance, so that we can rise in full identification with him and go do what he has commanded us to do in his strength.
That is, after all, the point.
We reveal the glory of God in our weakness, and our awareness of our weakness, which creates humility, so that his strength is made perfect, complete, in us when we identify ourselves completely with him, in Christ.
When I am weak (in myself), then I am strong (in him).
II Cor. 12:10 NIV (brackets and italics mine)
The Desert Warrior
Reflections by Bert A. Amsing
Copyright © 2012 by vanKregten Publishers. All rights reserved.