The Good News about Weakness
By: Kevin Park
A little while ago, I received a remark at church about my being overweight from a visitor. While I’ve always have had struggles in maintaining a healthy weight, being in seminary has not helped my waistline in the least. In response to the comment, I stated, “While I wish one of my major sin struggles was something easier to hide, that’s unfortunately not the case in this instance”. It caught them a little off guard and they offered no follow up. You could tell they were uncomfortable with the response. Which I found surprising, because the good news about Christianity is that when we see our own weaknesses, we have the opportunity to remember the fullness of Christ. Knowing we have weaknesses gives room for Christ to take up an even greater place in our lives. Our Lord put it this way, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, unlike those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:31-32).
Friedrich Nietzsche, the well-known secular theologian, who was an inspiration for Hitler and the Nazi’s, and one of the most outspoken critics of Christianity who ever lived, hated how Christians leaned into weakness. Nietzsche wrote, “The Christian movement is a degeneracy movement, composed of reject and refuse elements of every kind. It is not national, not racially conditioned and so it appeals to the disinherited everywhere. It is founded on a rancor against everything that is well-constituted and dominant. It stands in opposition to every spiritual movement, to all philosophy. It takes the side of idiots and utters a curse on the spirit.”
To Nietzsche, and even to our culture, being a good or successful person has this silent association of always being healthy, looking good, being prosperous, having a following, being engaging, to be someone who is ‘going places’, to be something new and next, and about 100 other superficial things I could add. The digital world in our age has helped further fuel this trend. The world of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat, encourages us to always put our best face forward. Where if people look long enough, they’ll never suspect we have been getting into too many arguments at home with the spouse, or we’ve lacked patience with the kids. If we put on a mask long enough and take the picture from the right camera angle, they’ll never see the weaknesses that lie underneath that top layer.
But that is not what the Christian life is all about. As long as a heartbeat still thumps in our chest, through the grace of God we will continue to find places in our lives where we are weak. It has been that way since the fall of mankind. It was Satan who tempted us with the carrot stick of becoming more. His temptation was to tell man and woman they could rise to even higher heights of personal attainment. Yet, if there had been a dependent spirit from the hearts of Adam and Eve, a spirit that knew they needed to trust and depend on God’s strength and not attaining their own – the fall would have never occurred. But the fall did occur. In this weakened state we now find ourselves in, a state where we are naked and feeble in the presence of God’s sight – we have two options. The first is to make our own covering. A covering made by our own hand for when we feel embarrassment or shame. This covering will be superficial, but yet it might fool a few individuals while we still have that heart beating in our chest. The second option is the covering of Christ; it gives us fullness where we are lacking. That second covering won’t impress the world, and will frustrate many, but there is a beautiful eternal confidence that wells up and comes with the trusting of Christ to right the places where we are wrong.
Believers have often been tempted to make superheroes of the faith. But our God does not often work in superheroes, and when He has given us individuals close to it, like Samson – He used Samson’s strength to show a great many weaknesses in Samson’s heart. It’s the temptation of the world to make those past and present look the part and fit the box of success. A funeral eulogy is a great place to see this first hand. I’ve been to a funeral where the individual in the casket had fairly boldly and fairly openly carried on an affair for over four decades. In life, the individual claimed to be an agnostic; But at the funeral, the Roman Catholic priest made it seem that due to the good things this person had done, they would most certainly be in heaven. My brother, who was with me, was so upset with the eulogy that he nearly went up to the pulpit – I out of love restrained him and stopped him from doing that. It was not the place. But I understood my brother’s objection. We in the church are a people who sing out the words “Our hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’s blood and righteousness. I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus’s name.” The church is a place for weakness. The church is a place to set more confidence not in what we do, but in what Christ has done. What a gracious God we worship, who can love us – in spite of our shortcomings.