Paul in his letter to the Corinthians writes, “Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ 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: 8-10)
“Our Lord has respect to our weakness,” explains Richard Sibbes in his publication, The Bruised Reed, speaking into our lives from the 17th century.
From the 1st century to the 17th to the 21st our Lord wants, no, needs us to know that he knows of our inherent weaknesses. Our Lord not only understands our weakness, he has respect for our weakness.
God respected our weakness when he came walking into our world as a child. His position was the weakest, and the most vulnerable. We like the illustration of a king arriving on a donkey, but we must love a king that came with no protection from our world. A baby has no natural defenses, no protection from the elements, and no way to feed itself or clothe itself. A newborn baby’s survival is totally dependent on the love and care of another. Christ lowered himself to the smallest denominator to show respect for the frailness and weakness of the human condition.
In our world the loneliest, sickest, weakest woman will long for and strive for pregnancy and the birth of a child. Regardless of the state she finds herself in, she instinctively knows a child will be weaker then herself. She seems to know down in her soul that to have a child grow inside of her and nurse from her life giving breast will give her strength and life. A child can be the weakest of the weakest, yet, an everlasting affirmation of new life, and new hope. For the weakest, this innate desire is a paradox. It is a consuming desire for life, that in many times brings death.
In God’s world the paradox is reversed. What seems like weakness and death is in reality strength and life. For the God of all creation to reach out and touch even the tip of the finger of the less, he had to become less than.
The God of the Old Testament was a consuming fire that could not be looked upon, or touched lest we were consumed while we attempted to stand unshod upon his holy ground. The all-consuming fire lowered itself to a glowing ember whose first act on earth was to warm the tender heart of a young mother who lay bleeding with life in her lap, on ground that had been trampled by both man and beast. Jesus humbly defined his power through weakness.
On the night Jesus was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane he displayed both his power and his respect for our weakness. Jesus healed the ear of the servant, and then allowed himself to be bound by men. Men who came displaying themselves as the powerful, yet unwittingly declaring their weakness by coming as a mob, brandishing weapons. Men who came with no respect for themselves, their teacher, or their God. Jesus humbly defined his power through weakness.
Jesus came into the world as the least, born into a family of the least, and he went out as the least among the least. He went from a stable to the cross. When he was removed from the cross he lay bleeding with death in his lap, on ground trampled by both man and beast. Yet, nowhere along the way, did he bring harm to anyone. In his humility he elevated each and every one of us. It did not matter how small we thought we were, or are, we can look down and see him, and at the same time look up and see him. He has displayed his power in being both the least and the greatest at the same time and the same place.
Jesus Christ came in respecting our weakness. He left taking our weakness with him. He came in as a child, he left as the King. He came to town on a donkey. He went home on the wings of angels.
God himself has loved us in our weakness. He is asking us to love each other in our weaknesses. If our neighbor cannot bring themselves to open their mail and deal with the overwhelming debt, then we are to open their mail with them. If our neighbor cannot fill their pantry, then we are to fill it for them. If our neighbor is consumed with anger or pain, we are to bring them a cooling relief. If our neighbor has an empty heart, Jesus invites us to bring the nourishment.
The weaknesses are endless, therefore the response is endless. Christ’s example compels us to not say, “I have had enough,” or “I have done enough.” Only Christ can declare, “It is finished.” We are called to go forth with perseverance.
That is why, for Christ’s sake, we delight in our neighbor’s weaknesses, in our neighbor’s insults, in our neighbor’s hardships, in our neighbor’s persecutions, in our neighbor’s difficulties. For when they are weak, then we are strong.
We display the power of Christ by approaching our neighbors life with humility and respect, walking with them through their weakness.