Paul L. Caron
Dean




Saturday, December 25, 2021

NY Times: Christmas Turns The World Upside Down — God's Power Is Made Perfect In Our Weakness

New York Times op-ed:  Christmas Turns the World Upside Down, by Peter Wehner (Senior Fellow, Ethics and Public Policy Center; co-author, City of Man: Religion and Politics in a New Era):

City of Man 3Those of us of the Christian faith believe that Christmas Day represents the moment of God’s incarnation, when this broken world became his home. But it was not an entrance characterized by privilege, comfort, public celebration or self-glorification; it was marked instead by lowliness, obscurity, humility, fragility. ...

That could be said not just about Jesus’ birth but also his entire life, which was in many respects an inversion of what the world, including much of the Christian world, prizes. ...

The paradox is that Christianity changed the world despite Jesus’ declaration that his kingdom was not of this world. His disciples did not have notable worldly status or influence. Jesus’ energies and affections were primarily aimed toward social outcasts, the downtrodden and “unclean,” strangers and aliens, prostitutes and the powerless. The people Jesus clashed with and who eventually crucified him were religious authorities and those who wielded political power. The humble will be exalted, Jesus said, and the last shall be first. True greatness is shown through serving others and sacrifice.

All of this calls to mind an account in II Corinthians, one I have been intrigued by for nearly as long as I have been a Christian. In his epistle, Paul is describing a “thorn in my flesh” that was tormenting him. (We don’t know specifically what it was.) Three times he beseeched the Lord to remove it, according to the apostle, to which Jesus replied, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Paul went on to add, “For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

What does it mean for God’s power to be made perfect in weakness?

It’s a statement as much about us as it is about God. Most of us know that we often grow in times of weakness rather than strength, when we face hardship rather than experience success. ...

[F]rom a Christian standpoint, Craig Barnes [President, Princeton Theological Seminary] told me, “Our weakness finally opens our eyes to the need for a Savior. Nothing prevents that more than our strength. No one has ever said, ‘I was so successful I just had to come to Jesus.’”

“We can only love when we are softened,” according to Peggy Wehmeyer, a former religion correspondent for ABC. “We are most likely to be softened when we are weakened.” Ms. Wehmeyer, who wrote movingly about her husband’s suicide in these pages, told me that the aftermath of his death was “the most powerless I’ve ever felt. Trusting in God’s goodness and yielding without being able to nail him down. That’s where peace begins: Surrender, in powerlessness.” ...

Whatever their full effects, human weakness and suffering are not meant to be ends in themselves. For Christians, they are meant to spur us to seek out God from a place of need and provide an opportunity for the display of divine power. ...

As I understand the words of Jesus as recorded in II Corinthians, weakness opens us up to a fundamentally new definition of strength — strength that is not coercive, domineering, prideful and self-seeking but rather compassionate, sacrificial, humble and empathetic. God’s power, perfected through our weakness, makes us instruments of mercy, seekers of justice, agents of reconciliation. It helps us see the world in a different way.

https://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_blog/2021/12/christmas-turns-the-world-upside-down-gods-power-is-made-perfect-in-our-weakness.html

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