1When I first came to you, dear brothers and sisters, I didn’t use lofty words and impressive wisdom to tell you God’s secret plan. 2For I decided that while I was with you I would forget everything except Jesus Christ, the one who was crucified. 3I came to you in weakness—timid and trembling. 4And my message and my preaching were very plain. Rather than using clever and persuasive speeches, I relied only on the power of the Holy Spirit. 5I did this so you would trust not in human wisdom but in the power of God. 1 Corinthians 2:1-5
To be sure the Apostle Paul was not a pushover. Nor was he easily swayed from the King’s mission. Paul was trained in the rhetorical conventions of his day and he was capable of entering into the fray without paralyzing fear regarding the emotional discomfort of others. So why did Paul intentionally enter the arenas of Corinth’s intellectual and social conversation with weakness?
The Gospel of Jesus creates a counter-cultural impulse. While the best and most noble virtues of a society may bend people toward the Gospel, there are also prized postures toward life that run counter to the Gospel, create a false gospel, and might be confused with the Gospel. I think Paul choose weakness because he was responding to to the counter-cultural impulse of Jesus as he brought the Gospel to the people of Corinth.
They valued strength. They valued flowery speech. They loved their big personalities and the opportunity to take sides. Those were the trappings of their human wisdom. Paul was capable of delivering all three… and it would not have honoured Christ and the Gospel.
So Paul made himself smaller that Christ could be greater. He came with weakness — timid and trembling. He talked with them plainly. He was very conscious of relying on the power of the Holy Spirit to move the hearts of people. He was looking for the power of God to inspire trust in God. He would not use fear or a form of personalized competition with other voices or logisticians to bring people to “his side.” Instead, Paul chose dependency on God trusting that He would show up through the grace, truth, and power of the Gospel. This choice shaped his attitude and posture toward the people of Corinth.
Would the Lord have you choose weakness as the pathway to people’s hearts in your community?
If so, what does that look like for you? What adjustments in demeanour are required?
Scripture: 1 Peter 4:14-19
14If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. 15But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. 16Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. 17For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18And “If the righteous is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” 19Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.
We are blessed when insulted because of Jesus’ name.
Avoid suffering as a murderer, thief, evildoer, or meddler.
Glorify God when you suffer as a Christian.
There is an urgency about life: God rightfully judges all people.
Keep entrusting your soul to our faithful Creator even while doing good.
Several times a week here at UBC I am having to evaluate the statement “I don’t want to offend or shame another person.” I do believe it can be a sincere desire motivated by love. However, when self-preservation and the fear of people inform our reluctance to move forward in love, service, and witness we are living without the urgency of God’s big-time and righteous view of our lives.
Love is our best motive. This is how the Spirit of glory and of God works in our lives. The presence of God is bigger than the face of our neighbour and our fearful imaginations. The fear of offense creates defensive positions and never wins.
The standup and improv comedian is taught in his or her craft “to move into the fear.” I wonder if that’s what we must do as well as followers of Jesus when it comes to proclaiming the Gospel and identifying ourselves as His disciples. We move into the fear; we serve; we speak up of God’s wonderful love in Christ Jesus.
To lean into this fear we must entrust our lives to God: “Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.”
Heavenly Father, I entrust my soul to you. Empower me today to do good. By your Holy Spirit pour your love into my life and give me courage to serve and to speak up in ways that are consistent with your will, your Son, and your Gospel. AMEN.
Scripture: 1 Peter 4:12-14
12Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. 14If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.
Beloved: Peter, loves this gathering of Believers and he knows God does too.
Don’t be surprised with troubles come because of following Jesus.
Rejoice when you are insulted because of Jesus.
You are blessed.
Because the Spirit of Glory and of God rests on you.
In his book, What Americans Really Believe, Rodney Stark observes that
people who did not enter college (34%) and those who attended college (33%) were equally likely to witness, but those who attended graduate school (16%) were much less likely to do so. This may be partly due to the fact that the graduate-educated were more likely than others to agree with the statement: “‘I have kept my religious beliefs to myself for fear of ridicule.’” A university faculty lounge would be a very uncomfortable place to do any witnessing. p. 26, What Americans Really Believe.
Fear of ridicule is another form of our fear of people. Social pressure is real. But the Spirit of God is calling us to lean into that realm of fear and actually let the glory of Jesus be revealed through our lives. Faith in the academy persists. But is does come with its social pressures. If you find yourself in such circles of humiliation because of your identification with Jesus Christ, count yourself blessed.
Heavenly Father, I have friends who are in the midst of their grad-school fear-factor. And I have friends who do indeed face the risk of “fiery trials” because of their faith in other countries. May your Spirit give them courage and wisdom to love people in your name and to proclaim your Gospel clearly. AMEN.