by Leopold Scholtz
Often, when I open my Bible, I find that the Word turns the world upside down. People are often naturally inclined to approach the world in a certain way - to show strength, to impress others, you name it.
But when you read the Bible well, you notice that God preaches the exact opposite. The apostle Paul's statements in his second letter to the Corinthians are a typical example.
In 2 Cor. 12: 9 he writes what God said to him: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Paul then goes on to say, "Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me." And in verse 10: "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."
We - and this applies to all areas of life - so often tend to say, through our actions and words, “here I am; I do not let them toy with me; I am strong and special.” It's something that does not just apply to ordinary, everyday life; you see it especially in the realm of politics. Our entire political order is based on the word competition.
In democracies, there is apparently competition for votes, but ultimately it is about conquering political power. In dictatorships, this competition rages not between parties, but between relentless and ambitious leaders who would do anything to get to the top. And if a potential opponent then has to get rid of the bad guys, then that's it.
Competition also fits in with nature, where it is often a matter of eat or be eaten. Because man is part of nature, it also explains the often unscrupulous nature of human rivalry and competition. But man is not the prisoner of his instinct just like a lion or a crocodile. Man received a certain intelligence, an ability to reason logically.
We are in principle able to identify the long-term consequences of an act. We can see that something that might be of interest to you in the short term might even hurt you in the long run.
This is where Paul's words matter. The turn he makes is sudden and utterly unexpected: In his weakness Christ is his refuge. Which means that if he is weak, he is actually strong.
To apply it to everyday life: If you want to get ahead in life, you can do it in two ways. You can dominate your competitors, eliminate them by cheating, and so on. Or you can be humble, modest and kind, treat people well and fair and impress with your honesty, integrity and hard work.
If you want to be a leader, take people with you. Do not scare them.
This also applies to politics. That's why Nelson Mandela finally commanded admiration, even though not everyone always agreed with him on everything. That's why Jacob Zuma ended up in prison humiliatingly.
Now one must understand the concept of humility (Paul himself speaks of astheneia or weakness) well. This does not mean that you are hiding in a corner and hope people do not see you. That doesn’t mean you walk around with your head down and apologize for living.
It does mean that you are not big-mouthed, that you do not boast sometimes, that you still want to make it clear to everyone how special you are. Humility means that you know yourself well and that you have respect for others.
Taking this into account, Paul's words take on a new meaning. Paul's approach - which is also Christ's - means that you will draw strength from your humility or weakness.
This is real power, as opposed to the false power that an exaggerated power brings.