I didn’t plan to write a blog post about Jeremy Lin, but I felt it was necessary in light of the Forbes’ article that was posted recently, and my concerns that such an article could mess with the thinking of many of my close friends. This is a response to that post because I think it portrays everything that is wrong and why our perspective of Jeremy Lin’s story can be a trap that will only lead us into unhealthy places of our lives and faith.
As of the writing of this post (2/13/2012), Jeremy Lin has captured the hearts of millions of fans especially those that are Asian American. Why? For the uninformed, Jeremy has been the ultimate feel good story for all Asian kids that want to play NBA basketball. Always counted out since high school (Palo Alto) through college (Harvard) to the NBA (Warriors/Rockets), Jeremy Lin started 4 games ago and his team, the New York Knicks, has won the past 5 games with both their main stars (‘Melo & ‘Mare) out. The Jeremy Lin show or the Linsanity/All he can do is Lin!/ Linspiration/Shao-Lin/Linderella, and so many ridiculous nicknames… has captured the minds and the hearts of many folks recently. What makes it even better? He loves Jesus Christ and does not hesitate to give God the glory for it all! If anything, we as his brothers and sisters in Christ need to be praying for him because it is getting dangerous for him.
But why do we love this story? We love this story because it is the ultimate underdog story! As Michael Wilbon of ESPN best put it, we love this because it is about a person “going from a nobody to a somebody.” Kobe Bryant after his team’s loss to the Knicks made this statement too: “a great story…it’s a testament to perseverance and hard work.” Forbes magazine listed 10 things we can learn from Jeremy Lin’s story as these qualities:
1) Believe in yourself when no one else does.
2) Seize the opportunity when it comes up.
3) Your family will always be there for you, so be there for them.
4) Find the system that works for your style.
5) Don’t overlook talent that might exist around you today on your team.
6) People will love you for being an original, not trying to be someone else.
7) Stay humble.
8) When you make others around you look good, they will love you forever.
9) Never forget about the importance of luck or fate in life.
10) Work your butt off
Now I think both of these men & the Forbes article captures the essence of our culture and our mindset because what it reveals is really how we all think we are to live our lives.
So what does our culture and world look for about these things that’s so attractive to us? We are so into these stories because it shows how the virtues of hard work, getting stronger, and getting more powerful can change your circumstances. Let me first caveat everything by saying that the pursuit of working hard, becoming stronger, or desiring to overcome circumstances is NOT a bad thing. My concern is that these qualities begin to become the dominating or ultimate motivating force in our lives and we allow these pursuits then to define us and to elevate them into a place of how they give our lives meaning. The problem with this is that this in many ways becomes a theology or belief that strength /power/effort are the only ways for a person to live their life! This is the reality of our lives and if anything, we seek to fight and overcome power with power, and what I want to share with you today is this… God has a different way to live your life; he shows this to Paul and it changes Paul’s entire perspective of faith. God’s way is not one of power versus power, it is through a completely different level of “power” that one can learn an incredible lesson about what true strength and how it affects our lives.
Take a look at 2 Corinthians 12:7-10:
“So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
So what’s going on… how does this text possibly connect with us? Especially those as Christians? As the 2nd letter to the Corinthians, Paul is writing to a church that is located in a busy port-city that was major trade route between Italy on the western side of Greece to the rest of the Asian Mediterranean on the eastern side (Turkey/Israel/Syria); Essentially Corinth was one the safest paths that connected the Ionian & the Aegean sea. As a result of this popularity and traffic, Corinth was a very culturally diverse city exposed to many philosophies/cultures/people and was of thinking. If anything, we can compare Corinth much to the US today because the internet and our diversity as a country makes us so exposed to much thinking… and the problem was that over time the wealthier Corinthians would invite folks to guest teach/speak at the local Corinthian church. They would house them, and as a result because of their skills both in oration and in amazing things happen such as signs and healing… these super apostles… would start to draw the attention of the Corinthian folks and Christians!
Compared to these “super apostles”, Paul was not spectacular. If anything, he was probably flawed whether in his physical ailments (blindness/epilepsy/speech impediment), to his physical appearance (he was scarred from his many experiences as a missionary)… Paul was nothing like these “super-apostles”. As a result, folks started to get drawn to these characters and started to question/disobey/disrespect Paul and what he was teaching or talking about. So Paul shared these comments in 2 Corinthians because he was in many ways having to deal with this drama… fighting power versus power… Paul being the underdog… was tempted I’m sure to counter these ridiculous statements with those of his own.
You see, he had been given some crazy visions & revelations from God (beginning of 2 Cor. 12), which could have elevated him in his status… and yet God took this time to teach Paul a great lesson on his perspective on power and how He didn’t want Paul to have to fight in this. Rather than fighting strength with strength, God gave Paul a thorn (verse 7). This thorn in Greek, skolops, not only means thorn, but was often used as a word for things thrown on the ground to hinder an enemy army in their advance. Anyways, this thorn was bugging Paul and driving him nuts! After praying 3 times for God to take it away, the Lord explains to Paul that “my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” We miss so much of the detail from the original language, but what Paul realizes is that ultimately this is God’s perfect plan for Paul.
God’s grace is sufficient for Paul because God’s power is made perfect in Paul’s thorn weakness. God’s tying together His grace to His power… and ultimately, Paul starts to see that this has only been possible through the ultimate example of weakness… that is Jesus Christ! God did not use the strong or the powerful means to prove and save humanity. He chose the least likely, most humbling way through His son being born to a teenage mom (seemingly out of wedlock)… lived a humble life… home-less, and then Jesus was subjected to an unfair trial which led to his humiliating death on the cross! This is the way that God chose to show His power, through Jesus’ humble/”weak” death on the cross, but what we forget was it was only through this way that true power via Jesus’ resurrection is revealed!
Paul is able to finally say, “For when I am weak, then I am strong,” because he understands that it’s only in our weakness that we are most close to our suffering Savior! Why? When we are at the weakest, we are the most helpless. When we are helpless, we are utterly vulnerable, and when we are utterly vulnerable, it is then that we realize our complete need for God. There is no other time that we are as true about our sin and our brokenness! Our vision is most clear; nothing obstructs our sight of God… and we realize that we can rely on nothing else, but God! This is when we all truly begin to tap the infinite power of God through Jesus Christ. What Paul realizes from that point on is that there is nothing he can do that will ever come close to being as effective or as powerful as his complete dependence on the Lord because when he is weak, his closeness and connection to God is most reliant upon God and His power.
Paul learned that the theology of power that our world teaches… this false gospel is nothing like the theology of weakness which leads to the truest power found only in God. It changed his life and the way he viewed himself. No longer was there an elevated image of his own ability, but there was a humbling and an understanding that the truest power is only found in Christ and that it is the only way to live then. The world lauds the theology of self-power and if you consider the Forbes article… what you notice is that almost all the ten qualities listed point to a self-reliance on self-power and says very little about what God has done. But as we have seen, and I’m sure Jeremy Lin would agree, the truest credit and power that can help us to live our lives well is NOT founded or based on our own strength/power, but it is founded in our weakness. It is in our weakness, we are the most true and real about our need for God and therefore it is in our weakness that we are the most close to our Lord, Jesus Christ… and it is then that our reliance and realization of our need for Jesus Christ is most clear; it is the way God chose to show His power to this world through weakness!
After writing this post, Jeremy Lin released an exclusive interview with the SJ Mercury News… check out what he says at the end:
“There is so much temptation to hold on to my career even more now…to try to micromanage and dictate every little aspect. But that’s not how I want to do things anymore. I’m thinking about how can I trust God more. How can I surrender more? How can I bring him more glory? It’s a fight. But it’s one I’m going to keep fighting.”
Jeremy Lin gets what Paul is saying. This is the way we are to live lives with the truest and most pure power, and it is only then that we can say like Paul “for when I am weak, then I am strong.”