Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Strong Must Accept The Weak

I recently posted my review of Dave Black's book Paul, Apostle of Weakness. As I mentioned some parts really pricked my conscience so I wanted to think more about one passage in particular.

I have always gravitated toward traditions in Christianity that focus on "being right" and often those traditions made "being right" a lot more than just an honest attempt to live faithfully. Instead they all too often became a way to lord over the "less mature", uninformed or just plain ignorant among the Body. Just being honest I embraced the new Calvinist culture because (not the theology proper which I still hold to, I mean the culture that surrounds the contemporary manifestation) in part because I liked to argue with people who didn't subscribe to Reformed theology. It was often little better than bullying because most Christians are unprepared for those kind of debates and the "young, restless, reformed" types were always prepared to argue. I have seen some of those same tendencies in other groups, leading me to the sobering conclusion that perhaps this idea of being the "stronger" brother appeals to me in an unhealthy and divisive way.

Dr. Black addressed the question of how more mature, "stronger" Christians should behave in relation to less mature, "weaker" brothers. While generally the response has been to dominate or divide (more on this), he suggest an odd course of action: love.

His answer is to indicate by a series of imperatives and arguments that love can tolerate even the most severe disagreements in matters of personal conviction and that such problems should be resolved in the interests of edification. Because Christ Jesus has accepted the weaker members of the church, for whom he died, so too must the string accept and support them in an attitude of humility and love.... To Paul the issue is not so much the immature view of the weak as it is the spirit of the so-called "strong" who condemn their weaker brothers and sisters.

(David Alan Black, Paul, Apostle of Weakness, pg. 149)

Well that is a fine how do you do! What fun is there in being a Christian who reads and ponders and blogs if I can't use that to bludgeon others and impress my friends with how clever I am?

Does he have a point? Absolutely and a very important one. The church is not set up to be a place where the strong dominate the weak but where the strong love the weak.We tend to naturally gravitate to a hierarchy where we place the strongest at the top and the weakest at the bottom. The strong are recognized by title and prestige. There is of course nothing wrong with recognizing the more mature among us but they should be noted for their service and exemplary lives, not for dominating and demanding.

The church is only as strong as it treats the weakest among us. If we see the weak as people to be ostracized and avoided lest they infect us or as fools to be corrected by our superior knowledge, perhaps we are not quite as strong as we think we are.


Aussie John said...


It has been my observation over many years that those who are often regarded as strong, are actually weak; and vice versa!

Bean said...

Classifying each as weak or strong still seems to smack of bullying, only God knows the heart of each.
It reminds me of the story of the man who was striving to be humble, each time he thought he had finally accomplished humility he would realize that he had not because he had pride in his humility.

Arthur Sido said...

Bean, I can see where that would come across that way. I was speaking more of how we see people as weak or strong. As Aussie John says often those we see as weak are actually quite strong and vice versa!

Anonymous said...

I would suggest that when trying to determine who is "strong" and who is "weak", always place yourself in the humble position, even if it might be the right one... God's Kingdom is about giving up our "right" to our position in favor of maintaining the unity of the body...