In-Sight: Church of “The Weakest Link”

Henri Nouwen speaks another powerful word to us.  From the vantage point of my Wesleyan tradition, I can say for sure, “John Wesley would love this….”

The most honored parts of the body are not the head or the hands, which lead and control.  The most important parts are the least presentable parts. That’s the mystery of the Church.  As a people called out of oppression to freedom, we must recognize that it is the weakest among us – the elderly, the small children, the handicapped, the mentally ill, the hungry and sick – who form the real center.  Paul says,  “It is the parts of the body which we consider least dignified, that we surround with the greatest dignity”  (1 Corinthians 12:23).

 The Church as the people of God can truly embody the living Christ among us only when the poor remain its most treasured part.  Care for the poor, therefore, is much more than Christian charity.  It is the essence of being the body of Christ.

Wesley structured and literally located early Methodism so that it could reflect this vision and express this commitment.  We become “Kingdom people” as we live and work similarly.

We must always remember too that every community has “the poor” in it—not always the financially poor or economically deprived, but those who feel on the margins of things—those who feel undervalued, ignored, and unappreciated for all the hard work they do.  Those of us who are leaders must structure and locate ourselves and our ministries so that no one feels insignificant.

Chains always break at the weakest link.  That’s why Kingdom living concentrates there.  That’s why Love (agape) flows there.  That’s why Church (and its many related institutions) always exist to care for “the least of these.”  God have mercy upon us when we only seek to hang out with the (alleged) “power people” and the “major donors.”

About Steve Harper

Dr. Steve Harper is retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 45 books. He is also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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