Photo Credit: Strong and Weak, Andy Crouch w/ Jonathan Storment
I want a Tshirt with this graphic on it. I also want to learn how to live “up and to the right”.
This graphic comes from Andy Crouch‘s book, Strong and Weak, which is still my favorite of 2018 so far. It sets out Crouch’s premise that flourishing is how God means for us to live. How we get to “flourishing”, individually and in community, is with high authority coupled with high vulnerability.
Authority is defined as “capacity for meaningful action”. Vulnerability is “exposure to meaningful risks”. These are the truest definitions. We have bent both of them to mean something else in today’s culture – either power with potential to be corrupted or a smarmy sensitivity that needs protecting.
Both authority and vulnerability when aligned with the will and nature of God are so much more…and work together to make us true image bearers of our Creator and Redeemer. As community (church), we can actually move toward a flourishing that includes the most vulnerable and the seemingly least empowered.
This Worship Wednesday blog is not about singing praise but about thinking and meditating on God’s Word and His intent for our lives.
“I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable, or well pleasing and perfect.” – Romans 12:1-2
“He has showed you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” – Micah 6:8
Thus says the LORD, “Do justice and righteousness, and deliver the one who has been robbed from the power of his oppressor. Also do not mistreat or do violence to the stranger, the orphan, or the widow; and do not shed innocent blood in this place.” – Jeremiah 22:3
“Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness,
to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh? Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’” – Isaiah 58:6-9
This past weekend, I had the opportunity to be a part of a Common Good RVA event. Andy Crouch was the keynote speaker. He spoke practically about how we could apply ourselves to the good of all, especially through the vocations God has given us.
As educated and affluent, our temptation is to avoid vulnerability placing us on the left side of the graph. In our flesh, we prefer withdrawing to safety or exercising control at all costs.
God calls us to a different life…a surrendered life for the common good.
A writer pastor, Jonathan Storment, wrote a series of blogs, taking the reader through a thought-provoking review of Crouch’s wonderful book. Below are quotes from his review and from the book Strong and Weak. When you read the take-aways below, you’ll want to read the book…then you will be compelled to act, with authority and vulnerability.
This paradox of both God-given authority and also the vulnerability that we all face in the world is where true Jesus-like leadership occurs. This is what it has always meant to be humans made in God’s image. – Jonathan Storment
Power that is transfigured by love is an entirely different kind of power. It’s the kind of power that leads people to lay down their lives for the good of others. It’s why the New Testament can use the word Dunamis (the word for power, where we get the word dynamite) so often in positive ways. Because Jesus redefined what it meant to wield power. – Jonathan Storment
Idols always promise to give you everything and cost you nothing, but given enough time, they take everything and give you nothing. So Crouch says: “The first things any idol takes from its worshippers are their relationships. Idols know and care nothing for the exchange of authority and vulnerability that happens in the context of love.” – Jonathan Storment
[Sidenote: We don’t usually think about idols…probably because we have already been deceived by their control of our lives – alcohol, drugs, pornography, position, wealth.]
Nothing is sadder than a leader who has refused to bear vulnerability. Whenever someone in authority refuses to bear vulnerability someone else is forced to bear it. But it’s not just the people who are oppressed, it’s also the oppressor. They lose something of what it means to be made in the image of God. They slowly create a Hell for themselves and then are forced to live in it. – Jonathan Storment
“This is the definition of Hell. To know the power you have and not have the ability to realize that potential.” Hell is like a cruise that never ends. But the real danger for us today is not that we book ourselves a lifetime filled with cruises. It’s that we do the same thing in different ways. Here’s how Crouch says it: “The real temptation for most of us in not complete apathy but activities that simulate meaningful action and meaningful risk without actually asking much of us or transforming much in us. So if you really want to see what withdrawing looks like in affluent, technological America, you don’t have to visit a port of call. You just have to turn on the PlayStation in your living room.” – Jonathan Storment
[Sidebar: This is not about bashing ocean cruise aficionados or gamers. I know both who are incredibly engaged as image bearers in their communities. This is about not being deceived. Recreation or needed downtime are not the same as a life’s pursuit of avoiding risks and settling for idols.]
The way of Jesus is up and to the right, authority and vulnerability in the world, bearing in the world’s suffering while being a part of the God’s redemption process.
I don’t think Christians are the only ones tempted to escape, and in our secular age, it’s no longer Heaven that people are escaping to. It’s much easier to stare at your iPhone than to have a conversation, slowly spend your life watching t.v. every night instead of going that group or civic effort.
[God help me here.]
Vulnerability and Authority – called to make a difference and remain open to the suffering of the world. Because we follow a God who did anything but withdraw, we are called to do the same. Now Up and to the Right. – Jonathan Storment
Now the challenge for us is to take the wisdom of these words and apply them to our lives and our community. Thoughts?