"in weakness"

My friend Jason reminded me of a series of journal entries from years ago, and I've been rereading them. This part seemed especially important for me to remember today:

Jesus’ laying down his life was the perfect act of love. Yet it was not approved or appreciated by either his friends or his enemies. How could love be so misunderstood?

Those who condemned Jesus didn’t appreciate what he was offering, because he didn’t support their management of society. He strongly challenged it. So they saw his death, not as an act of love, but as what he deserved as a subversive trouble-maker. They saw him as a criminal, executed with two other criminals. But Jesus’ followers also didn’t understand his “laying down his life” as an act of love. They could understand why he would preach and heal and feed people, and appreciated his challenging the problems in their society. But they couldn’t see why he would go to Jerusalem and accept execution without resisting, and they tried to prevent it. They could only see his death as a tragic failure. Neither friends or enemies could see the value in Jesus’ perfect act of love.

This illustrates well the difference between God’s purposes and ours. We are intent on imposing our own will, either to keep things as they are or to change things. Some try to preserve and protect what is important to them, such as possessions, traditions, social structure, etc. But at the same time, there are others who do not like how things are. So they try to change the property distribution or the social traditions and structures. What they all have in common is the need for power to impose their will. Those who are in power seek to maintain it, and those who are not in power seek to gain more of it—more wealth and more political influence.

This pursuit of power makes sense if our purpose is to impose our own will, to shape the world as we think it ought to be. But if our true good is not the exercise of our own will, but the surrender of our own will—faith—then the pursuit of power is not helpful. Because it is not strength that helps us trust God, but weakness.

And this is exactly what I see in Jesus’ way of life. Not the pursuit of power, but intentionally becoming and staying weak. A continual “laying down his life.” Instead of seeking human power like everyone else, Jesus embraces economic and political weakness and preaches it to others. This is seen as subversive by those in power, and as a failure by those who seek power. Yet it is exactly right for helping people towards God through faith. And revealing God's powerful love.

As Jesus said to Paul: “My power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor 12.9)