In 2 Corinthians 10:1-5, Paul addresses the division among the Corinthians, with a somewhat snarky tone. He begins, “By the humility and gentleness of Christ, I appeal to you—I, Paul, who am “timid” when face to face with you, but “bold” toward you when away!” Timid and Bold are in quotes because some of the Corinthians took issue with Paul being all lovey dovey when he was ministering with them in person, but corrects and disciplines them through his written letter. For Paul, this division is an enemy of the Christian faith. He goes on to remind them that they, and we by extension, do not wage war the same way the world does, but we take captive and destroy every thought and stronghold that sets it self up against Christ, with the divine power that has been imparted to us through the cross. In other words, as Christians we don’t engage in the same back biting and rumor mill spinning that the world loves to partake in.
In a grander sense, Paul is giving instruction on how we overcome the strongholds that keep us stuck and make us feel less than or insignificant. There is an incredible sense of moving in authority thinking with the mind of Christ, to tear down the thought processes that distort our created purpose.
I’d like to introduce you to Ann. She is a woman in her late forties that has been living on the streets of Philadelphia for years. On a typical day, Ann will sit on the front step of our house all day because she knows she is safe here. She speaks very little, even when spoken too. Her frame is tiny and sickly, and the few teeth she has left, are rotted and close to falling out. Despite her appearance and the way the world sees a person in Ann’s present state, she is one of the most loving kind people we know in Germantown. She barely speaks a word. As a matter of fact, I could probably count on one hand the number of times she has actually spoken in our presence. Nevertheless, she loves to hangout by the house and always wants to be near Alisan and myself.
For quite sometime, Ann believed the lie that because of the way she looks, the way she smells, or the lack of teeth she has, dictates who she is as a person and how the world perceives her as a middle aged woman of color living on the streets of a major city in the United States. No matter how hard Alisan and I would press her to come hang out at movie nights, community cookouts or the like, Ann did not see herself worthy to participate with the rest of the “normal people.” Though we all have the power and authority to tear down strongholds, sometimes, God’s plan is to see those strongholds broken by someone else. We love Ann, and speak into her life almost daily, but saw little change in the way she saw herself.
This past weekend we hosted a huge outdoor concert in the yard. There were 6-7 artists that performed and easily a couple hundred people from the community hanging out worshipping God together. From the front of the stage, one of the artists yelled into the microphone, “look at my friend Ann! Isn’t she beautiful?!! You are so beautiful Ann!” We watched as her face lit up like it was the first time someone had told this homeless woman, who hadn’t changed her clothes in months, how beautiful she is. The stronghold that made her think she was less than was broken and for the first time in two years, she walked all the way into the yard, and sat in the front row for the rest of the concert bopping to the music and smiling ear to ear. The thought process that told her she doesn’t deserve a place in the front was broken as she walked to the head of the table.
We all have some stronghold in our life whether we recognize it or not. We may not be in the same situation as Ann, but the enemy is constantly scheming to make us feel less than or insignificant so that we do not take our seat at the table and join in fellowship with the body of Christ. Maybe it is something as simple as not speaking up because you are convinced someone else is more qualified than you. Maybe it’s not trying your hand at something because you failed once before, and that failure stung. Or, maybe it is something visible to the rest of the world, like Ann. Either way, you have the authority to tear down those strongholds in your life, in your family, and in the lives of the people in your communities. When we tear down strongholds, and pretentious thoughts, we begin to think more fully with the mind of Christ.
The power of unified voices in community breaks the lies and the strongholds that hold us back from our identity. So, today? Take a step in faith and speak truth into the lives of those around you. Take a risk this week and tell someone they’re beautiful, and wait to see what the Holy Spirit does in their life and your community.