Today’s Daily Lesson comes from 2 Corinthians chapter 12 verses 7b through 10:
Therefore, to keep me from being too elated, a thorn was given to me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me, to keep me from being too elated.8Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me,9but he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.’ So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 10Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.
The only authentic spirituality is the spirituality of imperfection. This is the spirituality that does not make the perfect the enemy of the good and and does not view weakness as something to be shunned or denied but rather included and embraced. It is the rejection of weakness which is the driving force in the false spiritualities of authoritarianism and domination.
The late philosopher Harald Ofstad wrote an important book titled “Our Contempt for Weakness” in which he examined the origin of Nazism, whose authoritarianism drew its strength from the rejection of all that is weak in the quest for the strong (“supermann”). In Ofstad’s words:
“If we examine ourselves in the mirror of Nazism we see our own traits—enlarged but so revealing for that very reason. Anti-Semitism is not the essence Nazism. Its essence is the doctrine that the ‘strong’ shall rule over the ‘weak,’ and that the ‘weak’ are contemptible because they are ‘weak.’ Nazism did not originate in the Germany of the 1930s and did not disappear in 1945.”
We fear our own weakness and it is this fear that drives us to reject the weakness of others. This is exactly the opposite of what Christ was and did and in strict terms is the spirituality of the anti-Christ. Ofstad is right; this spirituality of contempt did not begin or end with Nazism and remains with us now today. It is the spiritual root of the rise of white nationalism and neo-fascism today. These are glaring manifestations; but the seed of the spirituality of contempt is within us all.
The only way to break free from the spirituality of contempt is to seek to love the weak and the broken — the weak and broken in ourselves and also in others. True, Christian spirituality is the love and embrace of the fragile and vulnerable and flawed. It is the love of frail and aging bodies and the embrace of different handicapped minds.
Paul pleaded with God to remove his flaw, whatever the flaw was — some believe it was physical blindness. But then he began to truly see that God’s power is made perfect in and through our flaws. When Paul was begging for his thorn to be taken, he was in fact asking to be relieved from his humanity — his vulnerable, skin-covered, flesh and blood and sometimes bleeding humanity. But it is this humanity that Christ loved — the broken parts. And it’s in and through the weakness of this humanity that his power to transform and transfigure is perfected.
His power is made perfect in our weakness, in our imperfection. Therefore, Paul says, we must learn to love and embrace and even boast in our imperfections. And it is there that we see the beautiful wonder of God’s grace.