Christ’s ministry had nothing to do with his physical attributes. We incorrectly project positive – even attractive – attributes on Jesus because we assume anyone who can draw that kind of crowd must have had decent looks. (Have you ever seen a painting of Christ that made him look ugly?) Yet look at what Isaiah says about Jesus: ‘He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him’ (Isaiah 53:2). That was not a description of the Lord as he died. That was a description of him as he lived and walked among men. His body had nothing to do with his ministry.
Paul provides the clearest expression of God’s heart on the issue of using people who are physically different or weak. He lists a strange set of credentials for his ministry: ‘I’ve been spat on. I’ve been beaten. Maybe you’d like to hear about my jail time. Oh yes, I’ve been shipwrecked, stoned, and given up for dead. I’ve been hard pressed, abandoned, and almost knocked out of the ring. The Gentiles hate me and the Jews can’t stand me.’ Then he presents the most distinguishing mark of God’s grace on his life.
God gave him something else-a vision with strings attached – a thorn in the flesh to keep him from becoming conceited. When Paul asked that it be removed to make his ministry easier, the Lord said to him, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness’ (2 Corinthians 12:9).
In 1 Corinthians 1 Paul told the Corinthian Christians to look at themselves and notice that, for the most part, God called people into their fellowship who by human standards were neither wise, strong, nor influential. He’s saying the Lord deliberately chooses physical losers, among others, to get his work done so that when the job is completed, the glory goes to him and not to us. Just as God’s grace is revealed in sinners, God’s power is made perfect in those whose bodies do not work as they were meant to.
God uses misfits
We are all tempted to evaluate a person’s effectiveness for God based on that person’s ability to get along with people. Our simple reasoning says that if you are liked by people, you are liked by God. We project our early theories of social exchange onto the kingdom of heaven. Here again, we are in error.
Paul, in addition to his physical weakness, was also rejected by the Christian community for his lack of social graces or communication skills (I Corinthians 2:15). I imagine John the Baptist would find very few organizations asking him to be their spokesman. And Jeremiah, Mr Down-in-the-mouth, could not name a single friend.
But God’s social graces are not ours. God chooses people based on different criteria. He does not look for people who will fit in or stand out, but for those who will stand up.
If I were God, I would not do things that way. Had I lived during the time when Israel was voting for a king, I would have served as campaign manager in the political machinery behind Saul – sharp, smooth, fast-talking, good-looking Saul would have been a hit on Jerusalem’s chat shows.
And David, the kid who smelled like sheep? No way. I’d never have bet he’d make it.
Thank God I’m not running the world. He is. And he opens his arms wide not only to kids who tend sheep, but to all the other unlovely and unlikely people. All through the Bible God shows us that this is exactly the way he does things to bring maximum glory to himself.