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13 October 2017

We don't do weakness

We don't do weakness

Rev Tim Hastie-Smith is national director of Scripture Union and vicar of Bibury and Winson with Barnsley. 

Well, if we’ve learnt anything in the last few days, it is that we don’t do weakness. The prime minister Theresa May loses her voice in an important speech and she’s finished – if she can’t even speak, how can she lead a country?  

As we observe the political fallout of a simple cold, let us take the opportunity to self-reflect and ask ourselves; what is it about weakness that we want to avoid? This isn’t about political point scoring, it’s about us. Do we like weakness? Are we comfortable in our own vulnerability? Do we want others to perceive our own weakness and do we welcome it in others, especially those in a position of power and authority? After all Game of Thrones tell us clearly: the weak perish, the strong win. Always. 

Counter to the wisdom of Games of Thrones, the Bible posits, “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.” (2 Corinthians 12:9) . God redefines power in terms of weakness - as service and vulnerability.   

But do we as Christians really believe that God’s strength is made perfect in our weakness? If truth be told, would we rather equip ourselves with any bit of strength going rather than suffer the humiliation of looking weak? From the magnificence of our cathedrals and episcopal ceremonial to the mesmerising power of a mega church experience with a celebrity pastor we demonstrate by our actions and behaviour that we prefer good old-fashioned power. Weakness just doesn’t do it for us. 

St Benedict observed that the Lord reveals what is best to the youngest and Leonard Cohen observed that there’s a crack in everything and that is how the light gets in. When we refuse to show our weaknesses, frailties, brokenness, the light of God has no opportunity to shine through. The young today know this. They are suspicious of power; it smacks of abuse, of hypocrisy and manipulation. Instead they are crying out for a humble, broken, weak Church - a Church not defined by its own strength and influence, but by God's power made perfect in weakness.  

So are we willing to believe that in our own weakness God’s power is made perfect? Are we willing to be humbled so that Christ’s power will rest on us? Or will we be deceived and enticed by the stages and cathedrals of the world which call us to be bigger, stronger, and more powerful?  

Let’s embrace our weakness in which God’s power is made perfect. It’s what the world needs the Church to be – broken, humble weak but the bride of the God of power made perfect.