I have been privileged to grow up with the health and opportunities to play athletics. De facto, that has done something to me… in me. From high school and on into college, being on soccer teams has put me in places where I was exposed to, shall we say, a culture of ruthlessness and vulgarity and excessive you name it. God has graciously protected me. BUT, it has only been recently that I realize that I wasn’t so much exposed to a culture of filth/trash – I was actually being exposed to a culture of weakness. The jokes and language and drunkenness of my teamates were but evidences of their weak flesh in a sinful world. It was evidence that they were searching for something to fill the God shaped vacuum in their soul that only the gospel in Christ can satisfy. They were seeking pleasure, but in their weakness their pleasure was temporary and ultimately destructive rather than a pleasure that is eternal found in relationship to the perfectly glorious Creator/Redeemer.
My exposure to the culture of college athletics, for me, was simply exposure to a culture of weakness (which I am still in as I refereee college ball). By God’s grace, it never angered me to be around them (maybe that’s because I have always been a little ‘secularly interested’ and have needed more protection than I can ever know). But still – I never recognized that their life patterns were not altogether different than mine! Not until this recent journey into a theology of weakness (or gospel worldview). Many of my friends and teamates lived out their weakness in profound ways between 9pm on Friday night and 6am Sunday morning. I didn’t live out my weakness in the same way (so I looked like a strong Christian). But I lived out my weakness in self-righteous performing (academically, socially, ministerially). I lived out my weakness in wanting to be accepted by them, rather than in trusting that I was fully accepted in Christ.
Point is: the way we respond to the weak world around us indicates our understanding of our own constant gospel-needy weak nature. When the Word of God, by the Spirit, awakens me to the depth of my weakness (when, 6 years ago, I thought I was going to have to bail on seminary and ministry because my marriage was inordinately weak – the kind of weakness and selfishness and spouse-despising that should at least temporarily disqualify people from public ministry)… suddenly my gospel-dependent weakness becomes the new lens by which I view the world around me. It is not a culture of filth/trash! Yes, it has destructive elements that I should flee. But, it is a culture that is SO WEAK in sin/need that it resorts to filthy and destructive things/ideals because it knows no other alternative! And suddenly, my mindset goes from being angry at the weak world/culture (translated into ignoring the culture with a bunker mentality) to being burdened for the weak world/culture (translated into engaging the secular and weak culture in hope/faith of comprehensive gospel renewal in Christ).
Maybe that’s what Paul meant when he said, To the weak, I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people that by all means I might save some. I do it ALL for the sake of the GOSPEL, that I may share with them in its blessing (1 Cor. 9:22-23). In other words, I must become so burdened for the weak that I long for them to share in the blessing of the gospel that covers me in my weakness (as different as it may/may not look from theirs).
How can we hope for the weak people in our neighborhoods, cities and culture to share with us the blessing of the gospel if we are angry at, rather than burdened for their weakness? We can’t.
O, and it’s a whole lot more fun being burdened for, rather than angry at the world. And its not that the secular culture is more weak and in need of Christ than we are… it’s just that it doesn’t know it (YET).
O God bring your kingdom to earth, and begin with burdening your people for our needy culture/world!