The horrible shooting at the church in Charleston shocked the conscious of our nation. And it is looking likely that nine dead African Americans will succeed in doing what countless civil rights and faith-based organizations have been trying and failing for decades to do: remove the Confederate flag from the grounds of the South Carolina statehouse. I guess it's true what Paul says in our reading today: when you are weak, then you are strong. This act of domestic terrorism raises up questions for us: what is power and what is weakness? Did Dylaan Roof have power because he had hate in his heart and a gun in his hand? Were the church members weak because they didn't? Depends on your perspective, doesn't it? So today we're going to look at power and weakness from God's perspective.
What we have in Paul's letter is an image of the persuasive power of God and the attractive power of the Gospel. Paul doesn't need any threats. He simply says, "our heart is wide open to you. There is no restriction in our affections, but only in yours." Likewise, God's heart is wide open to us. There is no restriction in God's affections, only in ours. There's no wrath or violence in God's heart. Only in ours.
None of us probably thought that being a member of church meant practicing love in a prison. But when you join a church, you make a commitment to love others, no matter what. You say, "I'm throwing my lot in with these folks, not because they're all model Christians, but because they are going to give me many, many opportunities to practice my faith, and whether they are saints or sinners, they are going to help me go on to perfection in love."