“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.” George Orwell

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Power and 1 Corinthians 12:22

1 Corinthians 12:22 "the parts of the body that seem weaker are indispensable."

I always pray for new insights regarding things related to the church and persons with disabilities.

The insight that recently came to me, was related to the part of the verse that says "seems weaker."  The rest of the passage indicates that persons who seem weaker are indispensable, but it doesn't address why they only seem weaker when in reality they are not. This is the new insight I received this morning.  People with disabilities have the potential to cause wholesale change the church and the traditions of the church with their presence.  So they may seem weak but the power of their presence is actually so powerful that if embraced it will change everything within the church. They are therefore, both indispensable and incredibly powerful to change the church...though seemingly weaker.

1 Corinthians1:27-29, particularly verse 27  says "God chose what is weak in the world to shame the wise."  When one is shamed, one is expected to do something in response to the shaming, perhaps a change in one's behavior, apologizes, etc.  Coupled with 1 Corinthians 12:22 the seemingly weaker will shame the wiser, potentially to bring change.

1 Corinthians 1:27-29 says, God chose what is
   -low and despised in the world
   -even things that are not
   -to bring to nothing things that are
   -so that no human being might boast in the presence of God

It involves the bringing of change
   -via shame
   -bringing to nothing things that are (perhaps traditions)

God is strong in weakness.  If we allow God to use our weakness, he will act powerfully.  People seem weaker because we don't see their weakness in concert with God's power.  Using the understanding of weakness/power given us by the world, we see people as weak because in part we see them, in themselves, and don't understand God's purposes, particularly in weakness.  They therefore seem weaker.

Now power can be displayed in at least two ways.  Power can come from being over others.
Power can come from being necessary to others, in being indispensable to others.

Arguably, the power of those who seem weaker (they seem so but actually are not) is the second type in that they are powerful in what their presence allows or causes the whole body to become.  However, I can see what I might become with their presence, decide I don't want to become that thing, nullify their actual power, and relegate them to being perceived as weak.  But I might also be blinded to the changes their power exercised would bring and so do not find out what the change would be.  I probably  need to first include them and then see where I would be taken in terms of change.

Powerful people may exert their power over others and cause some type of change.  But the type of change we are discussing is not that exerted by the powerful, but rather the relinquishing of power to the "weak" by allowing the changes they bring.  Power is being transferred to them in the changes they bring.  They will enjoy the changes they bring, but they are not changes they in any way actively sought (particularly those with more severe disabilities).

Foucault would say that when people resist, it is evidence that power is being exerted.  The resistance of churches and church leaders could therefore be evidence of the unintentional exercise of the power of the week, simply by their presence.  The rejection by the church of this power to change (acquiesce to change by the church) might thus be the reason why those who are indispensable, seem weaker.

The pressure to love is another form of this power people exert over one another.  They may actually say, "You must love me!" but rarely so.  But with the Bible in one hand and the person needing some loving response from me present at the same time, the power of the Bible's command to love exercises power over those who would submit to becoming aware of it/the situation.  The responsibility to love is power over a person.  Think about this in reference to 1 Corinthians 13.



Connie Perez said...

In I Cor. 12:27 the bible says that, “God chose what is weak in this world to shame the wise” and that “the parts of the body that seem weaker are indispensable.” In doing this God allows us to see that we are all equal in his eyes; that we should not puff ourselves up to think and seem that we are more important or special than any other. The bible also says if one thinks himself wise he should become a fool; he is only deceiving himself. (Rom. 12:3-5) We are all significantly lower than God, yet some would make themselves to be equal or greater than their creator. In taking care of each other and valuing each other the way that God’s word tells us we are in fact taking care of and valuing our own lives because we are all equal members of one body. Each of us should be regarded as co-inheritors of eternal life with Christ and nothing more or nothing less. (Heb. 9:15 & I Cor. 3:18).
We see many instances in biblical where the Lord uses the simple things to confound the wise as in the Old Testament stories when the prophet Elisha leads Naaman the captain of the very prestigious Syrian army to his healing from leprosy by giving him the message to wash in the river Jordan seven times. Naaman reluctantly followed the prophets directions and was restored to skin that was a smooth as a young child’s. It was astonishing then and still is today; how following the Lord’s simple directions can change the future if one is willing to obey. Now had Naaman not obeyed he very simply would have went home feeling vindicated in his refusal to obey such obviously ridiculous commands, but with his disease nonetheless. We can only imagine the good things that will happen in the world and in the church when we allow the “weaker” vessel to take its prominent place in our society, as an equal and beneficial partner.

Keith said...

Great post. I was thinking about 1 Cor 12 just the day before this came out and it helped to shape my thoughts before speaking to a group of pastors in Ontario, Canada. I also quoted you at the Disability and Faith Forum. In follow-up I read through the article on "The Indispensable Nature of Persons with Intellectual Disabilities to the Church." Thanks again!

Unknown said...

Power and 1 Corinthians 12:22 June 12 Blog Post
1 Corinthians 12:22 "the parts of the body that seem weaker are indispensable."

“I don’t know how you do it? Don’t you feel bad for them?” said my cousin, and many others before about my working with children with autism. At first I think to myself, “why don’t I feel bad for them? Should I?” But before I knew it I replied saying “No I don’t feel bad for my kids! They have a family that loves them, a roof over their head, an education, and they are happy. I feel bad for the children who are being physically and sexually abused and homeless”. She stared at me at awe and agreed. When I read the 1 Corinthians 12:22 verse, it made me think of that moment with my cousin, how society automatically assumes that when people appear different then them that they are automatically weak or less then for they have to be pitied.
I agree that people with disabilities have the potential to change the Church with their presence. I recently watched a movie called “Simon Birch” and it was about a boy with dwarfism determined to prove to his church and community that he was a special “instrument of the Lord”. It was an inspiring movie and I thought it was interesting how it showed the negative criticism and stereotypes of individuals who are labeled as different. Despite the lack of support from these people he was eventually was regarded to as a hero. All individuals have the ability to make a great impact on the world “disabled” or not. A true disability is not being able to see that God created all individuals for a purpose.