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what determines the strength of our weaknesses?

In any social group – be it a cell group in church, amongst classmates, amidst extended relatives or in the company of colleagues – there always seems to be one person who is visibly weaker or slower than, or simply different from the rest. And we all know that this person’s anomaly causes him or her to stick out like a sore thumb.

I’d like to think that we’ve seen and experienced them all; we have met those who are mentally disabled, autistic, those with disorders like OCD (obsessive compulsive disorders) or ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), those with poor EQ (emotional quotient) or relational skills, those that incredibly rude and intolerably inconsiderate, and finally the everyday individuals who are excessively sensitive, irritating, bossy or opinion-less, and the likes, who already struggle to fit in because they’re just different from the norm; they can’t (or struggle) to fit into the social group. As a result, when people don’t know how to deal with them, they simply shun them; those who are worse than scum scorn them. Shame on these insensitive individuals.

I was such a person.

This happened when I was in Primary school, before the saving power of Jesus Christ changed my life. There was a mentally handicapped boy in EM3 who was ostracised by everyone because he constantly went around to ask fellow students, in the strangest and most pathetic manner, “Do you want to be my friend?” As with (almost) every 11-year-old, I gave him that look of disdain and I walked away in disgust. I will never forget how low I stooped to that day and I carry that disappointment to this day.

I believe that the way we treat the least of us determines how strong we are. Already, these weaker individuals are eschewed by the world – I don’t expect many people to stop in their tracks to specially tend to or take care of them; no, most won’t even patronise them. They simply turn away in apathy – and I reckon it doesn’t even bothers them in the least bit. Our hearts have turned cold to those who are unlike us.

Like it or not, Christians, these people do exist in the church and more often than not they might just be sitting in the midst of us. How do we treat them? How do we respond to them? How do we extend love and grace to them? Sadly enough, more than half of us treat them in the same manner as the world treats them. No, unfortunately, these individuals are unable to find their city of refuge in church. Yes, we ought to be ashamed of ourselves. Aren’t we supposed to be the place that accepts everyone, regardless of who they are? It’s as if having to cope with a condition isn’t hard enough on the individual – we have to worsen it. It’s easy to love those who are lovely, isn’t it? But what about those who are unlovable? We ought to take a good hard look at ourselves in how we embrace people. My heart is so heavy even as I pen down these thoughts.

I’ll make it a little more relevant to us Christians, since I assume that most of you who read my blog are of the Christian faith. I’d say it again, the way we treat the least of us determines how strong we truly are. It’s like I’m rephrasing an old adage – that you are only as strong as (how you treat) your weakest link. If I want to see how loving a cell group is, I will examine how everyone treats the slowest, weakest and most unlovable member. So I find myself telling myself that whenever I deal with a needy person, the reputation of my church (and that of Jesus Christ) is at stake. I don’t know if this is the best motivation but I’m being honest. I feel pressured to do well, not for myself, but for the faith and organisation that I represent. I had better do well, so help me God.

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by all possible means.

This post is a response to my conversations with WY yesterday and YX just moments ago.

To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some. (1 Corinthians 9:22, NASB, emphasis mine)

Now, almost everyone in my church youth group would be familiar with the verse above. It is, after all, the theme verse for the evangelism pillar in 2009 – STBAPMIMSS (so that by all possible means I might save some). Well, I’d like to perhaps offer an alternative way of looking at this verse. This is my interpretation of it.

See, for the Apostle Paul to reach the weak, he became weak, to win the weak. I’d go as far to say that should he choose to reach the strong, he’d become strong, to win the strong. And this applies to whichever adjective that we can throw in here; it’s merely a figure of speech – it’s how low (I think) Paul would go to reach as many as he can for the Lord.

Now before I get embroiled into some unnecessary controversial mess with ISD, I refrain from commenting on the recent spate surrounding Pastor RT. I think there are radicals in every religion and the way to deal with over-zealousness and over-radicality, is this simple thing called wisdom.

In light of the upcoming What’s Your Next Move seeker-sensitive service in a couple of weeks, may I encourage you to remember a couple of things – you are neither the Messiah, nor the Convincer; Jesus Christ alone saves, and the Holy Spirit alone convicts. Our only responsibility, I think, is to preach the Gospel – be it literally or through our lifestyles.

So then, may I suggest that sometimes, it may actually be wiser to take a slightly more passive approach to preaching the Gospel. For an agnostic like my best friend CC, I’d never bring him to Christ by arguing with him about faith issues. In fact, in our aggression (often euphemised as passion) we may actually turn others away even more. So going by Paul’s statement, let’s rethink what it means to save some by all possible means:

  • Perhaps we can learn to be gentle some times instead of being aggressive every time in our approach
  • Perhaps we can try listening to real concerns instead of preaching for conversion’s sake
  • Perhaps we can attempt to be good moral examples instead of being holier-than-thou
  • Perhaps we can remember to consistently pray for our friends’ salvation instead of manufacturing an emotional altar-call experience

Don’t get me wrong, I am not compromising the content of my faith. After all, Jesus did declare Himself to be the way, the truth, the life and the only way to get to the Father – isn’t that a potentially religiously snobbish and aloof thing to say? I firmly believe that Jesus had a radical message (that obviously pissed off a lot of people) but His methods were full of wisdom. He always varied His approach but He never watered down His content.

Therefore, my challenge to you is to never compromise the message of your faith, but reconsider the method(s) in which you deliver it. It is my prayer that the Spirit reveals to you the best way to reach each of your individual unsaved friend. Do not underestimate the power of prayer and do not give up hope when you don’t get the desired result when you preach the Gospel to your friends. Failed the first time? Try something different and try again! Keep pressing on, my friends, and trust God for His perfect timing!

After all, our Saviour Himself “desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4) and “not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

weak desires.

If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly to hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I submit that this notion has crept in from Kant and the Stoics and is no part of the Christian faith. Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased. (The Weight of Glory – C.S. Lewis)

Before I am done with this life, I will attend Pastor John Piper’s Desiring God Pastors Conference. Yes, I will. May someone make my dream come true. (: On the same breath, I pray that my desire for the Lord, no, I pray that OUR desire for the Lord, would never weaken but only get stronger with each passing day of knowing and experiencing Him, for His glory.

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