During this season, we’ve been talking about how we can join God in the restoration of our city. Specifically, we’ve been looking at the prophets as examples of how we can call a broken people back to God. It’s a tricky thing, though, this call to be a prophet. It seems like a fine line between becoming some sort of judgmental fanatic or an irrelevant pushover. How are we to become people who can proclaim the kingdom of God with honesty and grace?
A recent book has been a tremendous help as I’ve been working through this season. Andy Crouch has written several hugely important books on how Christians can and must engage contemporary culture, and his latest book, Strong and Weak, seeks to equip those who desire to build a life and a world that’s flourishing.
For Crouch, flourishing happens when Christians are able to embrace both authority and vulnerability. When people seek only authority (which he defines as “capacity for meaningful change”), they are led to exploit others and–ironically–they become subject to the authority of an idol. Anyone who has experienced addiction understands this: what begins as a promise of total authority without any personal risk, ends in enslavement and suffering.
Of course, though, a life of only vulnerability (which Crouch defines as “exposure to meaningful risk”) is nothing but suffering. Anyone who has faced a tough diagnosis, the death of a loved one, a difficult breakup, or trouble raising children knows something about feeling totally helpless.
We probably have spent time in both those areas. We’ve exploited others with hoarded authority, and we’ve been subject to suffering due to shifting circumstances. And many of us know what it’s like to withdraw from both, to try to shed any responsibility and insulate ourselves from risk. Sadly, that’s the option many faithful Christians have taken when confronted with the harsh realities of sin and suffering.
But the path of flourishing is the path of Christ, who embodied authority and vulnerability. The story of Christ should be our own model–the capacity for meaningful change can only be fully realized when it is wedded with exposure to meaningful risk.
If you’re looking for a good book for this summer that will set you on the prophet’s path, check out Andy Crouch’s Strong and Weak.