If, as Christians, our hope is ever to shock those with whom we disagree by the strength of our numbers, I worry that we have either overestimated the size of our group or joined up with the wrong crowd.
We are a small gate, narrow road, minority-minded people as God’s people have always been.
We are the boy David pitted against a giant, Gideon and his three hundred men with lanterns in the dark, a rag-tag group of ex-slaves marching around a city wall. We are pilgrims, strangers, wanderers, underdogs.
“Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not.”
That is our heritage. We are the things that are not.
Given that heritage, underdogs and weaklings and strangers, we ought not be surprised if bigger kids steal our lunch money. It is our destiny.
According to Paul, we are often bullied but never bully. We bless our bullies and do not curse. Romans 12:14
Jesus said,“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.”
It is our lot to be hated. But it also our calling to endure it. And to bless.
“To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless. We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it.”
Perhaps we’re out of practice in the West, having been bullied so little, but our responsibility as followers of Christ is to take hatred (or disagreement) sitting down—to look in the eyes of a person who attacks the things we love and to love him. To bless him.
In his memoir Eugene Peterson recollects being stalked by a flannel-wearing bully named Garrison Johns. He describes the beatings, the embarrassment of being called “Jesus Sissy.” One day, Peterson, tired of turning the other cheek, snapped and, inexplicably, started fighting back. In a moment Peterson realized his own superior strength. And in that moment Peterson took charge. He pummeled the bully repeatedly, pinning him to the ground.
Having pinned his nemesis, Peterson yelled for the boy to “say uncle.” A light bulb went off in the “Jesus Sissy“‘s head and the next words out of his mouth were, “Accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior!” Peterson held on until he did.
I’m afraid Christians are guilty of that.
Far too often, excited by our own strength, we bully the bullies.
In the name of Christ.
David is infamous for two big mistakes. Bathsheba is one. The census is the other. God told David not to count the people and David, the proud King and conquerer, counted them anyway.
I don’t know why he did it. The text says Satan incited him. I have a suspicion David wanted to count his people because he was impressed with how many there were.
Joab, so disgusted by David’s command, gave the king an incomplete number.
What does it matter how many fighting men live in Israel? God lives in Israel.
But we like a count. And we like it to be big.
We feel stronger having counted the good crowd at worship, the voters we sent to the poll, the number of chicken sandwiches we bought in a day.
We feel strong because we believe there is strength in numbers.
To believe there is power in our size is to misidentify (and perhaps miss altogether) power’s source.
This is especially bad when, disconnected from the Source, we use our perceived power to gang up on our persecutors. Or worse, those with whom we simply disagree.
“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. 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.” II Corinthians 12:9-11