A Form For Failure

November 28, 2020

. . . But God proves his own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 5:8

Written by Lee Swartz from the Station Hill Campus

In the Prologue of his most recent collection of poetry, Survival Is A Style, Christian Wiman gives voice to the inner life of all honest people in the closing line: I need a form for failure, since it is what I have.” And while I recognize that Wiman, true to his vocation, is being lyrical rather than prescriptive, it’s my belief as a follower of Jesus that God in His genius has already created a space to entertain failure. It’s called the church.

Where the church is thriving, it is 100% in the power of the Spirit through believers who are experts in failure. We are NOT humble; we have been humbled. And it is from our weakness that we encounter and comprehend strength. We lament our defective motives and derelict emotions whose only bearing is inward.

The church is far from a “safe space.” It is roused by unfairness and injustice. And by that, I mean we can only defy unfairness when we are humiliated by the unfairness of God’s sacrifice on our behalf. And we can only challenge injustice when we are kicked in the teeth by the injustice of the Cross.

We are loved despite ourselves. So how do we reflect that back to the world?

Roughly none of my non-Christian friends give two rips about the ontological argument, or the teleological or cosmological arguments. They’re all wondering, silently or out loud, “What is going on with the world?” and in their agonizing private moments, “What is wrong with me?”

The Cross and the reality of Romans 5:8 is an opportunity to enter into each other’s pain and each other’s goofiness and remind them (and ourselves) of a truth I tell my son as often as necessary. “You’ve already got the job! You are my son and I love you no matter what. There’s no need to pretend or perform.” For those who believe Christianity is just another source of condemnation in their lives, what if this is our only truly compelling apologetic?

Poetry and Christianity are alike in that they both necessarily slough off the unnecessary words. When Christ was confronted with disingenuous questions, He spoke poetry. When He encountered desperate fathers and grieving sisters, He spoke poetry. And when Satan tempted Him, He spoke poetry.

The implications for our marriages, our relationships with our neighbors and our default approach to people who do not look or think like we do is profound. We are loved despite ourselves. Let us go and do likewise.

Questions to Ask Yourself

  1. Why it is so difficult for man to come to the Lord?
  2. When you hear a non-Christian say, “I don’t need a savior,” is there anything we can say to that person to help him better understand God’s heart?
  3. How do you recognize God in your life?

Missions Prayer

Pray for persecuted Christians around the world, that their witness will stand and be useful in growing God’s Kingdom. Pray for perseverance, provision and peace for them and for their families. Learn more at https://www.persecution.com/

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