Judgment and weakness

Judgment is the time when God finally brings in the verdict. The question, then, is not how one balances off mercy and judgment, but for whom is judgment mercy and for whom is it threatening doom. For God’s people God’s judgment is salvation. But who are God’s people? Is it not consistently true in the Bible that the only time that language about “God’s people” really functions, the only time it is allowed to stand up without the lambasting critique of the prophets, is when it stands for the little ones, the oppressed, the suppressed, the repressed? Is it not true that all language about a chosen people becomes wrong when applied outside the situation of weakness?

In other contexts, this was also Paul’s great lesson to the triumphalist and self-assured Christians of his time, to the super-apostles who in his judgment, were overconfident. To them Paul said that for him the Lord’s grace was sufficient: “…for when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor. 12:9-10). Such an exploding of the concept and image of strength is perhaps the simplest and most overarching message of the life and death of Jesus.

–Krister Stendahl, “Judgment and Mercy,” Paul among Jews and Gentiles, p. 102.

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