At the last CMDF (Christian Medical and Dental Fellowship) dinner, something interesting happened. A guest, who was not a follower of Jesus, decided to be one. What is more interesting is why? The theme of the evening was “Good News for Bruised Reeds”, and the invited speaker and a panel of three spoke about their brokenness and failures—ranging from struggles with pornography, marriages on the verge of falling apart, one that did, and depression. And the person who decided to follow Christ reported that she did so because of the “raw and authentic faith” she witnessed in the lives of those who shared.
Recently, I met someone who worships at a church where I spoke a few months ago. She told me that she wanted to bring a friend to the service where I was speaking but she had a prior appointment and so could not. But the appointment was cancelled at the last minute and she came with her friend. After the service, her friend decided to be a follower of Jesus. What was I speaking on? Reflections on failure from the life of Joseph. I also shared on how the lessons learnt from Joseph’s life helped me in my own struggles and failures.
The above two accounts that happened so close to each other made me wonder: It seems the Kingdom progresses, not from displays of strength but from demonstrations of our brokenness that showcase the saving power of God. After all, Paul did tell us that the gospel is contained in jars of clay,
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. (2 Corinthians 4:7 NIV)
I am therefore concerned when the church tries to show the veracity of the gospel through displays of strength: see how clever we are, see how many we are, see how well connected we are, see how rich we are (often implied), see how well organised we are, etc. We need to listen more to the people we are trying to reach. Are they really impressed by such demonstrations? Or do they even turn them off?
Maybe if we humbly lead with our common brokenness, we will connect better with people. After all, we are all broken people. We stand in solidarity with a broken humanity. And, from a stance of brokenness and need, we talk about possible sources of healing and meaning. Then we share about a Messiah who was also broken and who now offers a way out, a promise of healing. As Leonard Cohen, the Canadian poet and songwriter who passed away in 2016 reminds us, it is the cracks that allow the light to shine through.
Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.
(Leonard Cohen, “Anthem”, 1992)