Tuesday, December 02, 2008

When We Are Weak, then We Are Strong

During our short stint in Marble Falls, I repeatedly heard Allan Stanglin and Todd Lewis trumpet the value of the writings of Marva Dawn. Thanks to their graduate schooling at Austin Grad, they'd both been exposed to Dawn's work and her keen insight into issues related to the tension of being the church in our contemporary culture.

So, you can imagine my excitement when I saw the syllabus for the class I'm taking this fall at MBBS. The last of seven required readings is Powers, Weakness and the Tabernacling of God. In the book, Dawn touches on the reality that God inhabits weakness, but the contemporary church is enamored with the strategies and structures of this fallen world. The principalities and powers of the world are in stark contrast to the ways and means of God throughout Scripture.

As Dawn notes, "Our churches operate as fallen powers when the gospel is no longer a stumbling block, when the 'foolishness' and 'weakness' of God outlined in 1 Corinthians 1-2 are discarded in favor of status, position, wealth, popularity, acceptability to the modern or postmodern minds, or power. Only in the paradox of glory through suffering can we find the truth of God's triumph, not as an oppressive power, but in the power of submission to death. Churches have lost their vocation when they please the world too much and lose the scandal of justification by grace -- the helplessness that sticks in the craw of those who want to be able to fix themselves by themselves" (91).

That's Dawn's take. Here's the Lord's: "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." And here's the Apostle Paul's: "Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. 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 12.9-10).

In a culture oriented around success, weakness is far from virtuous. We typically live to enhance and develop skill and strength where we were once weak for the sake of success. Scripture, on the other hand, calls us to take stock of our weaknesses, not in order to self-help our weakness into strength but to discover in our weakness the very presence of the power of God.