In the words of the late Rich Mullins, “we are not as strong as we think we are…”
This issue is dedicated to humility in our weaknesses and the certainty that, although we talk a good game…when we get on the field we aren’t nearly as adept as we would like to think we are. And here’s the good news. That’s when God steps in. When God steps in that’s when the impossible becomes possible…not because we were so good or skilled or brave but because God was gracefully enough and loving enough to see through our mess and make something beautiful out of it all.
This theme is a thread that runs from the 3rd chapter of the Bible to the 1188th chapter of the Bible…that God takes our brokenness and makes us new (Revelation 21:5)…God takes our hurts and brings healing. God takes our “half-ness” and brings us wholeness in and through himself. We only find our identity through recognizing our profound need for the One who can make our life right again…not of our own good works but by the grace of God (Eph 2:1-9).
We catch this in Acts 4 when Peter and John, by the power of the name of Jesus Christ, just healed a lame man. The now ambulatory man runs celebrating through the temple courts causing quite a stir. Peter and John get hauled into temple court (which would make a great reality TV show) where they are questioned and commanded to stop doing these things in the name and power of Jesus Christ. Luke notes for us in 4:13, “When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.” They didn’t have the background or schooling to be able to teach this way. Something was different about them and that something wasn’t their own study or confidence but the grace of being present with Jesus and now with the Holy Spirit. The lame man didn’t walk because Peter said the words just right. He walked because of the power of God.
Paul said it like this in 1 Corinthians 1:22-25,
“Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.“
In the very next chapter Paul reminds the Corinthian Christians that,
“I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.” – 1 Cor 2:3-5
That is just the New Testament…if you turn to the Old Testament you will find many more examples of this…just look up Abraham, Moses and David to name a few.
What does this mean for us?
First what it means for insiders…those who are already Christians. It is important that we are organized in our ministries but it is also important to leave room for the Spirit to work. We can get so organized and programized that it might appear that we don’t expect God to have to even show up for things to work out. What if the church positioned itself in ways that without God showing up, the wheels fall off. Maybe that would change our prayers. Maybe that would change our giving and willingness to sacrifice. Maybe that would change our hearts, our lives, and our communities.
Last, what does this mean for outsiders? It means we have to be honest about our shortcomings and sins. We live in a world that will not accept hypocrisy but that values honesty and authenticity. Authenticity among Christians means being really honest in dealing with our problems. We aren’t on a pedestal looking down on the world…instead we must empathize with a broken world because we too know what it means to be broken. I am convinced that this is one of the core reasons many of our young people leave the faith and that we aren’t attracting non-Christians is because people haven’t been able to find room in the institutional church to express themselves authentically in their brokenness and be received safely and in complete love. Reconciliation assumes brokenness comes first. If we are too uncomfortable to deal with awkward situations, hurt, pain, grief, sorrow and all the things that result from sin…then we will lose our saltiness.
This starts with a church leadership that is openness about its imperfections and that chooses to partner with broken people rather than shoot their wounded.