Living in Weakness

The more I think about it, the more I marvel at the way Jesus sent his disciples out on their missionary work.

Traditional Christian outreach has usually involved dedicated societies raising funds: language and theological training for those sent out into ‘the field’, and many years of effort in communicating, not only religious teaching, but also the customs, language and government structure of the missionary nation.

The result has not always been one of joy and success. We see this in the reactions we find from Canada’s aboriginals to their experience of residential schools. As one was heard to say: “The missionaries brought us Jesus, and he seemed to be a really nice guy. But then you brought us your Church and your government, and we said ‘Hey, wait a bit.’”

What a difference when Jesus sent out his disciples! No funds. No place to live. Not even a spare change of clothes. All had to be received from the compassion and generosity of those to whom they were sent to minister.

There’s a strange logic in what Jesus was doing. The essence of the Gospel is that we behave towards those in need with the kindness of the Good Samaritan. By approaching strangers in a state of need, the disciples were asking strangers to behave to them in just such a manner. To such people as responded with kindness, the Kingdom of Heaven came very near very quickly. This was not a matter of theology, but of human compassion. In a very little time, we had joy, belief, healing, friendship and success.

Paul describes how he came to preach in Corinth with “weakness and fear and much trembling” (I Corinthians 2:3). Yet that was one of his most successful ministries. He appears to have been suffering severe eye trouble when first he visited the Galatians (Galatians 4:15). I’m sure there’s an example here that we would do well to follow, whether it is in evangelistic work, youth work, or even the ordinary outreach of a Parish. Weakness can be strength.

I wonder if sometimes the Church doesn’t have this courage to be helpless?

– Anglican Messenger, 1998*