Essential Vulnerability

Recently one of the pastors at the church where I attend gave a sermon that included a number of statements in which he chose to be very open in confessing his human imperfections to the congregation. It reminds me of the importance of making ourselves vulnerable to others as an essential driver of personal spiritual growth. Notice James’ words:


Therefore, confess your sins [faults] to one another and pray for one another, so that you may be healed (James 5:16).
Notice that this verse doesn’t limit healing to physical illness. It also includes mental and emotional needs of afflicted individuals that can sometimes result from our spiritual shortcomings.


Humanly it is natural to resist personal vulnerability. Our culture emphasizes independence, autonomy, and self-sufficiency.  And while these are not entirely wrong, beyond a certain point they inhibit spiritual growth.


In that regard, consider that while the three members of the Holy Trinity have separate identities, they exist in perfect community. Of the three, the Bible describes the Son as our perfect example of vulnerability who in becoming man “emptied himself by assuming the form of a servant” (Philippians 2:7a) and became “sin for us” (2 Corinthians 5:21) and “was tempted in every way as we are” (Hebrews 4:15).


The example of Jesus points to the reality that our personal vulnerability is an essential part of our spiritual growth in the process of conforming to His (spiritual) image as author Richard Rohr suggests in his book The Divine Dance (SPCK, 2016):


Did you ever imagine that what we call “vulnerability” might just be the key to ongoing growth?  In my experience, healthily vulnerable people use every occasion to expand, change and grow.  Yet it is a risky position to live undefended, in a kind of constant openness to the other—because it would mean others could sometimes actually wound you . . . . But only if we choose to take this risk do we allow the exact opposite possibility:  the other might also gift you, free you, and even love you (p. 57).


Rather than being an option, as I explain in Principle # 6 in Philippians, living and thinking as Rohr describes is essential for spiritual growth:


To live worthy of the gospel, we must live in harmony with one another, demonstrating Christ’s attitudes of unselfishness, humility, and self-sacrifice.


Truly, these verses and principles provide us with the keys to the richness of fellowship in God’s eternal community.

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