In his short and ironically powerful book, Weakness is the Way, J.I Packer penned, “Our proud hearts shrink from weakness.”
He’s right. In our fast-paced and self-assured 21st century culture, weakness is avoided. If avoidance is not possible, at least the pretense of power will do. We are frail creatures who don’t want to appear frail. Yet God is in the business of using that which is weak to bring about that which is grand.
This is an important point to the Apostle Paul as he writes to the Corinthian Church in 2nd Corinthians. It appears that some have come into the church to win followers from Paul to their cause. These false-teachers come promoting their accolades and accreditations to demonstrate their superiority over Paul. This is why Paul asks, in somewhat of a condescending way, “Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you, or from you?” Paul goes on to remind the Corinthians that they are his letters of recommendation since his ministry of the gospel brought about their conversion to Christ.
Paul uses severe imagery to demonstrate just how weak he views himself, and the Corinthian believers who are called to be ambassadors for Christ. He says they are like Christ’s trophies of grace, being paraded around. Those who see them – to some they will smell like the fragrance of life, but to others, they will smell like the stench of death. Moreover, he tells the Corinthian believers that their life is one as frail as a jar of clay. A jar which easily cracks and breaks if dropped—that’s the strength found in the body of the Corinthians.
What is clear to Paul in his letters to the Corinthians and to us throughout our Christian life, is that our weakness is actually good news. This is why John Piper once proclaimed, “your ordinariness is not a liability; it is an asset.”
Another commentator, David Garland, put it this way, “If Paul were a superman, faster than a speeding bullet and able to leap over tall buildings with a single bound, he could hardly proclaim the message of the cross.”
While it may seem a silly mental exercise, try to imagine Superman sharing the gospel. Imagine that from the lips of the Man of Steel comes the news of the Man of Sorrows. Those listening would hear the news of the suffering servant, who came in the needy form of a baby, needing to grow in strength and stature, born to humble means, in a humble town, to humble parents. They’d hear of this Jesus of Nazareth, who wandered around with a band of unimpressive friends, who would one day be charged and sentenced to death. They’d hear how he was hung between two scoundrels and even those who dared called him friend in his life deserted him in his death. They’d hear about how he was beaten, torn, and mocked until his last breath.
They’d hear all of these things, and what would their response be? “Nah, I’m good. I think I’d rather follow you instead.”
You see, Superman can’t share the gospel. His self-sufficiency and undeniable strength make it a futile and rather silly enterprise. But you, Christian, you are not Superman, and praise God.
For when others hear the gospel from your lips, they hear it not from one who can leap over buildings in a single bound but from one who needs grace for the next breath. Your frailty and fragility adorn the gospel and show that the power is not contained in us, but the treasure we’ve found in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
Weakness really is the way forward for the Christian, and this is good news for those who are weak. We know that our weakness has an expiration date as the day of resurrection is coming. Yet for now, we embrace our weakness and proclaim the only one we know to be strong—Jesus the Christ.