Vulnerability, a mark of Discipleship

Vulnerability doesn’t defeat greatness. Vulnerability defines greatness! 

Last night as our Tribe (small group) met, Ellen and I  decided it was a good opportunity to discuss vulnerability and why vulnerability is such a needed aspect of the life of a believer in Christian community. Vulnerability loosely defined, is exposing ones self to the possibility of a negative outcome. As believers we understand, in the “futility of our thinking” (Eph 4), that being vulnerable is something that we are supposed to include in our bag of spiritual tricks. However, it is because of the futility of our thinking, that we find reasons not to be exposed. It is very easy for a believer to sit in a room full of people and talk about the importance of being vulnerable, after all James 5:16 say “confess your sins one to another”. Yet knowing this from our own thinking, and saying it, are completely different from living it. Yes we are called to confess our sins to one another, but for what? In the deepest recesses of our souls, our knee jerk reaction is to not be exposed, to let “certain things” remain in the dark. What good will it do for me to confess my sins to a person when confessing that sin could completely change how that person looks at me? That’s risky! My life is already hard enough, without having to deal with the fact that someone else will know just how awful I can be.

I say again however; Vulnerability doesn’t defeat greatness, it defines it!

Elijah is know by some, myself included, as one of the greatest prophets in scripture. Actually, were it not for Jesus telling us that his cousin John was the greatest, most would probably say that Elijah was the greatest. After all Elijah raised a widows son from the dead. Elijah called fire down from heaven, he cause rain to cease for three and a half years, he even parted the Jordan river (that’s one we don’t even remember). Elijah stood in an impossible place in front of Ahab and Jezebel and their court, rebuking them and their paganism. He then went on to defeat their rule. He is known as the Prophet who finally got the Israelites to own their monotheistic religion without empty platitudes. In other words, he’s the guy who finally put the seal on the Jewish tradition. He took what Abraham, Moses, David, and Solomon had worked for, and solidified it. Under the spiritual leadership of Elijah, the Jewish people finally said, “this is who we are. Yahweh is our God”.

It is because of Elijah’s vulnerability and boldness that we remember him. He put his life at risk by telling Ahab and Jezebel that Baal wasn’t going to replace Yahweh. He defeated their armies, and left no question in regards to Whom was on the real throne.

Yet in first Kings 19, Jezebel promises that she will make sure Elijah meets his end. And what does Elijah, this great prophet of God do? He tucks his tail firmly between his legs and runs. When confronted by God, after he runs, is where I believe we see Elijah’s greatness shine through. At his weakest moment, Elijah doesn’t tell God to get lost, he doesn’t throw a bunch of excuses at God, and he doesn’t lash out at God for God’s sake. He lashes out for his own sake. He tells God that he feels like a failure. He bares his soul to God, shows God his biggest weakness, and in that, he finds the healing he needs.

How many of us know this part of Elijah’s story? How many of us are thinking of Elijah’s greatness when thinking of this moment of weakness and vulnerability?  We are sold out to our culture’s current definition of “greatness” forgetting that Jesus said counter cultural things such as, “the greatest in the Kingdom will take a lowly position.” We don’t want to think of Elijah being a chicken. We want to remember his victories and his boldness in the face of certain death. This is what make Elijah a hero. I contend were it not for Elijah exposing his weakness to God, we wouldn’t remember Elijah in the same light.

In first Corinthians 12:10 we read,  “That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

This completely flies in the face of culture and even the western church’s understanding of how to succeed or be great in life. Weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and difficulties, don’t define greatness in our world of “getting ahead”. Yet Paul tells us that these things are the very things where he has found that he is strong. Why? Because he understands that his strength is not of his doing. His strength comes from Jesus.

When we are told to confess our sins one to another, and then realize that following Jesus has never been about “me and Jesus” and that’s it, we understand that being in Christian community means bearing one another burdens (Gal 6:2), in a way that we are living out a part of the New Covenant that is often forgotten. We are called to be the hands and feet of Jesus not just for those who are in need, and those don’t yet know Jesus. We are called to be the hands and feet of Jesus for each other as well. Nothing increases the purpose of the kingdom of darkness more than “more darkness”. When we bring things to the light, when we expose who we are, and confess our sins to one another, then who we are becomes less important than who He is in us. Paul says in Eph 4:10 “In my weakness, I am strong”. This is because he realizes that his strength only comes from the strength giver.

In recent decades, we church experts have thrown strategies and well thought out theological “fixes” that the church needs. We come up with programs upon programs, and ideas upon ideas in order to reverse the decline of worship attendance and committed discipleship. Shame on us! Our culture is way too wrapped up in protecting that which can’t be protected, and doesn’t need to be protected, our self image. Generations upon generations in the West have become convinced that being vulnerable is the absolute worst thing we can become. When in reality, the wisdom of God says, that it is exactly what we need to do.

Find a way, to be in safe Christian community. Let’s get the ones in the mirror fixed by exposing the image only we see when looking in that mirror. When the Light comes, darkness doesn’t have a chance!

Vulnerability doesn’t defeat greatness! Vulnerability defines greatness!




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