The Other Infection

Sufficient Grace

“Have I ever had an original thought,” I asked myself. “Probably not,” I replied.

I was “chuffed” to find myself in good company at a confusing time and feeling weak.

A blog I often read (“Musings on Science and Theology” by the “Jesus Creed” guy, Scot McKnight) pointed me to an article in “The Atlantic” (which I don’t often read) by Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health. All this should give sufficient credit where credit is due.

I was “chuffed” because a respected scientist who trusts Jesus, even as he leads many who do not believe, through a tough time for them, had struggled with the same biblical truth that it took me a long time to accept and I’m still learning daily to live.

2 Corinthians 12:9…

New International Version
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

New Living Translation
Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.

English Standard Version
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

They all say pretty much the same thing. Somehow, it is OK when I am weak in ways that irk me or even scare me. Somehow it is even better than OK. Somehow it is a good thing that allows Christ to work through me. If you are studying Genesis with us, somehow my weakness is antidote to the other current pandemic of “ambitious autonomy” that infects all us humans already. The map tracing the spread of infection for that virulent disease would have to be a solid red across the whole human world!

If you have time and the inclination today or during the week, skim back through the chapters we have already considered in Genesis. Watch the “sin virus” spread—the pandemic of “ambitious autonomy.” From the Serpent to Eve to Adam, “We are going to do this our own way, God!” From there to the first family and then on from there as families and lineages grew. Genesis gets pretty dark very quickly as humans spread the disease of sin and death instead of LIFE producing righteousness. The map of infection is clear. What will stop this infection? Are we humans able to fix it. Bob the Builder would have to change his tune to “no we can’t!”

I suspect the Apostle Paul was a smart guy and likely quite self-sufficient when he chose to be. So, God said, because I love you, Paul, let me leave you with a reminder—a different sort of Jacobian limp—an irritating “thorn in your flesh.” This prickly, annoying thorn you are unable to tweeze-out will remind you that you cannot do everything. Eventually, you will learn you can’t truly do anything—anything of lasting value–autonomously“For when I am weak, then I am strong,” the apostle finally concluded.

I suspect Paul did not explicitly expose the nature of his “thorn” to us not just because the Corinthians were already aware of it. I suspect God let him be generic so our frightening “thorns” could fill out the application of the truth—“My power works best in weakness.”

The world is scared to death of our collective human weakness these days. You can easily tell this when powers, politicians, and popular spokes-people lie to cover-up the irritating weakness-thorns embedded in their flesh. Sometimes I believe they believe it all depends on them and that, deep down in times like these, is what scares them the most. This is when “ambitious autonomy” bites back the hardest. Candidly, everyone knows it is a lie. No one wants to say so. So people get edgy , angry, and hoard toilet paper as a feel-better “fix.”

I doubt that Dr. Francis Collins, who knows this truth, would suggest we are simply to pray and pass out miraculous, healing-hankies to beat the “Coronas.” I bet he thinks even unbelieving scientists should work hard at material cures for what ails us so viciously today. But, I would also bet he reminds himself that God taught Paul, “My power works best in human weakness.”

May more and more humans find protection and cure from Covid-19. May the fear and anxiety it brings make more and more humans aware of that other disease that infects us all—our desire to be strong autonomously. May we be there for people, ourselves pricked by our own reminding-thorns, to tell them that in Jesus Christ, “…when I am weak then I am strong.”

…by God’s grace alone, through simple faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone