The Weak or the Strong

“Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich! Without us you have become kings! And would that you did reign, so that we might share the rule with you! For I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, like men sentenced to death because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men. We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ.  We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute. To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, and we labor, working with our own hands.  When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things.

I do not write these things to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children. … I urge you, then, be imitators of me. That is why I sent you Timothy, my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, to remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach them everywhere in every church.”  1Corinthians 4:8-17

I will discuss a lot on this blog about how the Church of today compares with the functions and foundations given in Scripture.  That of course should be our constant goal, building the church according to God’s given purposes, rather than our own culturally accepted assumptions and traditions.  Of course this is the very struggle at hand; sinful nature, both individually and corporately, being put to death with Christ.  And this is Paul’s charge against the church at Corinth here.   They are following the wisdom of the world.

So often the Kingdom of God is described as being contrary to the way of the world.  But many of the ways we who claim to be Christians live and move in the world do not attest to this fact.  Look at what Paul is contrasting here.  How often can we look at our lives as the Church and claim that they are in line with Paul’s teaching?  Are we following the wisdom of God in such a way that seems folly to the world?  Or are we like the church at Corinth following the same rules, marketing tactics, financial models, standards of success, teaching methods, life improvement program emphases, etc. that dominate the outside culture?

What if David had kept Saul’s armor & weapons? Are we afraid to be made ‘weak’, as David was?

I would submit that too few of us are living our lives fully as servants of God’s Kingdom, as Paul preached.  We are all servants, but who do we serve?  Remember in 1 John 2:15-17, we are told “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.” Are our desires and goals and wisdom truly different? Our lives cannot simply consist in living and acting just like the world, but with Christian twists and opinions.  Our actions attest to what we love.  That for which we really sacrifice is our god. To which kingdom do we belong; which rules do we follow?

Let’s face it, it’s scary to lay down our lives as Paul did, as Jesus did. It’s scary to face hardship, risk embarrassment, or give at the risk of our own lack.  What if we don’t have enough?  What if we suffer?  We naturally build our defenses against these things, but that is what ‘faith’ means.  It’s trusting that God is there, and that in laying down our lives for His kingdom, through our death, comes true life.  That is utter foolishness to a world that only has this life.  Death is failure, weakness is loss.  But Christians are not of that kingdom.  Those rules do not apply.

Let us look at our lives.  Let us examine the desires, motives, and standards of success in even (perhaps especially) our Christian activity.  Sometimes we work so hard to be strong, that we are useless in the kingdom of the weak.  As disciples our prayers should be more for service and sacrifice, rather than strength and success. Our choices and actions must be different than others. Remember that servanthood isn’t just the job of ordained officials but of all disciples “everywhere in every church.”  When we more fully become disciples of Jesus it becomes impossible to blend in among the ‘strong’. In all honesty, even now, I’m having a difficulty expressing these thoughts. But I have to remember that hearts and minds are changed by His Spirit, not by my eloquence.  May we become ever more ‘weak’ and ‘foolish’ as we become more like him who succumbed to death, only to defeat it.

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