But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.
- 1 Corinthians 1:27
See what the land is like and whether the people who live there are strong or weak, few or many.
- Numbers 13:18
Babylon’s warriors have stopped fighting; they remain in their strongholds. Their strength is exhausted; they have become weaklings. Her dwellings are set on fire; the bars of her gates are broken.
- Jeremiah 51:30
Beat your plowshares into swords and your pruning hooks into spears. Let the weakling say, “I am strong!”
- Joel 3:10
“It is the nature, and the advantage, of strong people that they can bring out the crucial questions and form a clear opinion about them. The weak always have to decide between alternatives that are not their own.
“Please excuse these rather pretentious ‘pensées.’ They are fragments of conversations that have never taken place, and to that extent they belong to you. One who is forced, as I am, to live entirely in his thoughts, has the silliest things come into his mind—i.e. writing down his odd thoughts!”
- Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison
You can understand Bonhoeffer’s lament in the first paragraph of the quote. Adding the second paragraph, you do not even if this is a sentiment of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He had gathered many miscellaneous comments in conversations and mashed them together. (I hope to use a few more of these miscellaneous comments in future posts.) Did he include them in a letter of late July 1944 or was this something sent about that time, since the next letter is dated in early August 1944?
Bonhoeffer had been in prison for 15-16 months at that point. No decision that he made could be made of alternatives of his own choosing. He did not wish to be there. But at the same time, there is depth in this quote. He may be implying that some of the jailers could have been in the same situation.
My wife’s father lived in the Netherlands during the war and his aunts and uncles on his mother’s side were German. He had an uncle who was not a Nazi party member, but that did not stop the Germans from conscripting him and sending him to the Russian front where he died in Stalingrad. The family was told that he died in battle, but there were many soldiers that died of other things during that lengthy battle.
It seems Bonhoeffer is referring to those strong people who have freedom and are strong in mind, body, and spirit. So often we focus on the athlete and marvel at the athlete’s strength. Archimedes said, “Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world.” I doubt if Archimedes spent all day working out at the gym.
The Scriptures speak of a flipped narrative when the weak shall be strong.
But until that time comes, when God grants us true freedom in the next life, we will always have some limitations upon our abilities to choose our own outcomes. Even the athlete with millions of dollars in the bank account, at his/her peak of athletic prowess, and with a clear mind still has influences that affect the decisions that are made. And these decisions usually work to the person’s detriment.
But one decision results in everlasting peace and life eternal. We can lay down our spiritual sword and have God turn it into a pruning hook or a fishing hook to catch people. When we surrender our will to God’s will, we have Jesus enter our heart and whether that decision results in earthly blessings or great trials, the end result is that we live with Jesus, in Heaven, forever.
That indeed is a decision made of alternatives that are ours to control.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.