Hey everyone! Welcome back to our blog!
We started out this past week diving into a book called Strong and Weak by Andy Crouch, and we looked at what it means to flourish.
To sum multiple days into just a few words, we looked at the 2X2 diagram. Our speaker, Chris Mathewson, and the book pointed out that Jesus is the the perfect example of flourishing-the perfect balance of both authority and vulnerability. As humans, we struggle to find that perfect balance of being strong (authoritative) and weak (vulnerable). In fact, we fear both, and that’s why it’s so hard for us. When one or both are missing, we find distortions-suffering, withdrawing, and exploiting. Here’s a short explanation of each of the four quadrants:
Flourishing is not growth or affluence or gentrification. It’s learning what we are saved for, not just what we’re saved from. It’s acting with both authority (the capacity for meaningful action) and vulnerability (exposure to meaningful risk). As Christians, we have the authority to reflect God which involves being vulnerable when interacting with other people. Flourishing is what we ultimately strive to do.
Suffering happens when there’s high vulnerability and low authority. As humans, we often impose vulnerability on others to protect ourselves, and in class, we learned that suffering is the product of self-protectiveness. Because of sin, we’re hardwired to participate in the suffering of others-and for that reason, I’m sure we can all think of a time where we’ve both been the cause of another person’s suffering but also been the one suffering. Here’s the good news though: Jesus defeats suffering and replaces it with victory! And spoiler alert, God wins! When we, in the midst of our suffering, run to God and trust him, we find joy.
Withdraw is one of the easiest things to do in American society. It’s what happens when we have both low authority and vulnerability. It’s the farthest we can be from flourishing-and the farthest we can be from reflecting who Jesus is. In fact, we learned that we can’t bear the image of God fully in isolation because God created us to be in community with others. Pastor Chris said that withdrawing is an assault on the image of God. It pulls us away from the reason God put us in a specific situation.
Strong and Weak tells us that exploiting is found anywhere people seek to maximize power while eliminating risk. In other words, it’s where authority is high, but vulnerability is low. When it comes to exploiting, we try to hide ourselves and save ourselves but ultimately end up killing ourselves. And we end up pushing those around us into suffering. We discussed how one of the best early warning signs that we’re drifting towards exploitation is that our closest relationships begin to decay.
We spent quite a bit of time reflecting on how each of these four things show up in our lives and how it affects the world around us. Check out the videos and interviews to hear some students’ takes on what we learned, and have a great rest of your week!
Brandon Bechtold with Emelina Menzies & Alaina Wheeler
How has the idea of Biblical Flourishing changed your worldview of the Gospel?
“The definition of flourishing is equal parts of authority and vulnerability and that’s exactly what we see at the cross. Vulnerability in that Jesus knew the pain he was going to experience and did it anyway. Authority in that Jesus exercised his power in using it in the betterment of others as he redeemed the lost..” – Emelina Menzies (Current Student)
“Biblical flourishing is high authority and vulnerability. I think it’s important for us as Christians to understand the example Jesus set as the ultimate authority displaying the ultimate vulnerability. It’s easy for us to think that God is powerful, but to understand that Jesus was willing to make himself vulnerable while having all of the authority of God. Since Jesus is the ultimate example of what humanity is supposed to look like, so flourishing for us then becomes living in to the authority that we have in our identity in Christ as well as being vulnerable within the creation God has made.” – Alaina Wheeler (Resident Leader)
How have you seen withdrawal impact your relationships with others and with God?
“Society looks at vulnerability as weak so people don’t want to be vulnerable, but there is only so far you can go in a relationship without vulnerability. Because of this, many of my relationships have stayed shallow instead of growing deeper.” – Emelina Wheeler
“People tend towards the withdrawal category because they don’t want be suffering. In addition, they don’t understand the authority that comes with their identity in Christ, so they tend to want to withdrawal because of their lack of understanding of that authority. In relationships, people who tend towards withdrawal are the ones who are afraid of getting hurt by being vulnerable and are afraid of hurting others by exploiting. So ultimately, fear pushes them away from biblical flourishing.” -Alaina Wheeler
How has society distorted the true meaning of Flourishing?
“To society flourishing means having the perfect family, many relationships, money, publicity, success, and the list goes on. Jesus flourished more than anyone else, yet he had none of these.” – Emelina Menzies
“In society, there are very few people who think suffering is a vision of flourishing. As well as there are only a few of people who think withdrawing is flourishing because of safety, ease, and comfortability of withdrawal. I think most people think that exploiting is flourishing because they equate power with success. Success for a lot of people means being the best even at the expense of others, which is very different from the Christian life.” – Alaina Wheeler
TAKE A LOOK INTO THE COMMUNITY!