Gentle ≠ Weak
Here is my servant, whom I uphold… He will not cry or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; a bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice. – Isaiah 42:1-3 (NRSV)
To me, one of the mysteries of the faith is how the Messiah is going to manage to do much of anything while being this gentle. To move so slowly and carefully that you don’t even generate enough wind to puff out a guttering candle? How could you possibly effect any change at all, to anything, if you have so little effect on the world around you? How in the world can somebody that’s not even generating a tailwind bring down the powerful from their thrones? Is this servant just really accurate, super laser-focused? Maybe they can take the strongest down a few notches while being careful of the weakest. Maybe the Messiah is a justice sniper.
Or maybe I’m thinking about the wrong kind of justice. Maybe it’s not about swift punishment, but a careful distribution of what the world needs. Maybe God’s justice isn’t the kind that pushes and pulls and extinguishes and knocks things around. Maybe God’s justice doesn’t break bruised reeds not because it’s weak, but because its strength lies otherwhere than in force: in healing, in growth, in repair. Maybe it doesn’t extinguish guttering lights because it’s not blowing around the room, but welling up from within. Maybe it doesn’t knock the powerful from their thrones so much as it convinces them to climb down on their own.
Whatever your justice is, however the mystery works, thank you and please hurry. Amen.
Quinn G. Caldwell is Chaplain of the Protestant Cooperative Ministry at Cornell University. His most recent book is a series of daily reflections for Advent and Christmas called All I Really Want: Readings for a Modern Christmas. Learn more about it and find him on Facebook at Quinn G. Caldwell.