More Dated Than Bell-Bottoms

John Piper

The gospel magnifies God and humbles man. To the world the gospel doesn’t look like power at all. It looks like weakness — asking people to be like children and telling them to depend on Jesus, instead of standing on their own two feet. But for those who believe, it is the power of God to give sinners everlasting glory. – John Piper

If I had to opt into choosing a “national fear” for the average American, I might venture to point out something controversial. It’s not a fear of terrorism or war. It’s not even a fear of losing independence or rights.

It’s a fear of looking weak. Appearing weak. Not just the nation at large, but us within it.

Looking weak is not the American way. We pull ourselves up by our bootstraps. We forge our own path through life, and woe to any person who tries to stand in our way. We admire muscle, power, and a commanding presence.

We’re not afraid of anything … except, perhaps, people thinking we might be afraid of something. That might make us look weak.

I don’t like to appear weak. Or that I don’t have it all together. I don’t like to ask for help and rarely do, if I can help it. “You go on. I got this.” At work. At home. In life at large.

But we don’t “got it.” We might have things covered in the smaller matters, but where it really counts, we often need help. And where it counts the most, we need the most help.

A hospital patient in need of a blood transfusion can’t tell the surgeon, “No worries; just use my own blood. As a matter of fact, let me handle it. I’m good.”

In our popular culture, we’ve rendered the concept of sin more outdated than bell-bottoms, and just as unappealing. But anyone who has been the victim of abuse or misuse knows intrinsically there is something wrong with being treated unfairly. Someone pays the price for another’s dishonesty or theft or affair. The judicial system is alive and thriving because there are the wronged and the wrongdoers. There are, in bell-bottom-age terms and older, the sinned-against and the sinners. Which means that sin itself is also alive and thriving.

And where sin abounds, Paul writes, grace much more abounds … because we all need grace. We all need forgiveness. We can’t pick ourselves up by our bootstraps. We can’t give ourselves a blood transfusion. But that’s okay, because the Lamb of God already shed blood. From the foundations of the world, and in time and space on a Cross one long ago Friday.

Current culture cringes at the thought of looking weak and admires those who stand on their own two feet. But eternal culture, in the words of Jesus, welcomes those who are not afraid of becoming like children. And earth’s inheritance, He says, belongs to the meek. The lowly. Those who do not fear appearing weak. Those who know they are, so embrace the strength and power of Christ and His gospel.

It doesn’t appear strong, but only those who embrace the strength of weakness know how much courage it takes to depend fully on Christ for everything.

Do I know that courage? No. Not yet. Not fully. I would like to. Becoming like a child and admitting my fears seems a small price for the embrace of grace and an eternity in the presence of glory.

2 comments on “More Dated Than Bell-Bottoms

  1. cartma says:

    And I wonder where to draw the line in the sand for the phrase. “the Lord helps those who help themselves.”

    Ultimately when we’re called, our human form will deteriorate to nothingness but our spirit (whatever that is) lives on in the memory of our family and friends. At that final judgement, what happens to the bad guys?


    • Bonita Jewel says:

      That’s a good question. I remember when I was young, asking something similar to my mom and her answering in a typical Texan fashion, “Everything comes out in the wash.” More recently, I heard her tell my son, “The judgments of God grind exceedingly slow, but exceedingly fine.”
      What about the bad guys? I often have a hard enough time trying to decide “what about me”?
      We all have a heart of stone that only God’s grace can turn to flesh and blood and something beautiful, and when I find myself thinking or commenting harshly on someone, I am often reminded of the saying, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.” If not for His mercy, my heart and soul might not only be dark, but SEEK darkness.
      There is so much I do not know and probably cannot comprehend, but more and more, I find the love and mercy of Christ, the grace of God, shines like a nigh-forgotten sunrise into the shadowed understanding of my mind, and for that I am grateful.


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