It is starting to appear to me that there are only two classes of people – vulnerable and exploiter.
What I am seeing throughout Scripture are descriptions of various interactions between these two classes and God's revelation of how in the end the vulnerable will win. And when I get to the gospels I discover the most vulnerable person who ever lived.
Of course this is completely backwards to my normal way of thinking, but that is because we live under the systems of power based on the supremacy of the exploiters. But God declares that it is the meek who will inherit (not conquer) the earth. And Revelation is exposing to me how this will all take place.
Let me analyze the relationships between these two classes to see what might emerge.
Exploiter encounters another exploiter and sees a rival to conquer.
Exploiter meets vulnerable and creates a victim.
Vulnerable meets an exploiter and feels fearful (normally).
Vulnerable meets another vulnerable and sees potential friend.
Let me simplify even more.
Exploiter + exploiter = rival
Exploiter + vulnerable = victim
Vulnerable + exploiter = fearful
Vulnerable + vulnerable = friend
It seems that this tool may be very useful in unpacking much of Scripture and even life in general.
Using this paradigm unlocks many things I have not noticed before. We are all infected with the spirit of exploitation, for it is the essence of sin which is now part of our inherent nature. Even victims foster this spirit to a degree whether they have opportunity to act it out or not. Our defensive reactions are usually tainted with desires for revenge which is simply reflective of the spirit of an exploiter. Only Jesus was free of the spirit of exploitation and demonstrated to us what the true design of humanity should look like even after 4,000 years of damage from exploiters.
Of course Satan was the first and still is the greatest exploiter. In contrast, all of heaven and the original earth as created were all models of total vulnerability. We tend to disdain vulnerability and view it as something bad, something to be avoided. But this very attitude itself is a result of a life under exploitation and abuse. Because we live in fear of being exploited and do not really believe that God will take care of or protect us, we tend to think like victims or at least potential victims and fail to see the incredible advantages of a life of total vulnerability.
All creation in heaven and on earth was designed to thrive and live in joy based on the foundation of total vulnerability. Jesus, the perfect revelation of God came to this earth and made Himself completely vulnerable while at the same time trusting fully in His Father all the while to arrange His life events, to protect Him, to guide Him and to use Him to bring life to the hearts and lives of all who were willing to be affected. He had unconditional compassion for both the vulnerable and victims but also even the exploiters. He knew that though we all act in ways that reflect our fallen nature desiring to exploit others for our own benefit, we do so because of the malfunction infused into our fallen nature believing that this is the only way we can survive. He also knew that abusers exploit because they too were victims of abuse and exploitation which is partly how they learned to be exploiters.
Jesus maintained the higher perspective of heaven in all of His relations to both exploiters and the vulnerable. But He also had the understanding that the only way to be restored to our original design where we could once again experience the joy that is the very fuel we were designed to live on is to come back to living in full vulnerability.
Of course Satan is doing everything possible to keep us locked in fear and denying that vulnerability is God's intention for anyone. He insists that God Himself is an abuser and cannot be trusted to protect or bless the vulnerable, and Satan does everything possible to enforce that view by exploiting vulnerable people and then pointing to the damage as proof that God's plan of living vulnerably is not only impractical but ludicrous. From the very inception of sin Satan's claim has been that all must look out for themselves and indulge at least to some degree the spirit of exploitation whenever threatened in any way. This logic seems so natural and sensible to us now that we struggle to even comprehend that God's way could ever be practical or even make sense.
Yet total vulnerability is not just a good idea for living in harmony and love, it is an absolute necessity for any who desire to live in the light of God's presence for eternity. Total vulnerability is not something we can postpone until we get to heaven as many would like to believe, but is something we must start practicing and enjoy right now if we want to be made ready for the appearance of the One who gave us the ultimate example of vulnerability in the midst of intense exploiters.
The life, teachings and example of Jesus all the way to death at the hands of violent exploiters is the brilliant flash of truth that must be recognized and embraced to show us the real truth about life, about God's plan for all of us and the path to real freedom. The kind of love and joy that we were designed to live in and thrive in even now and extending throughout eternity involves willingness to humble ourselves as Jesus did and choose vulnerability while rejecting any spirit of exploitation. Though it seems like only disaster and ruin are the only possible outcome, the truth as found in Jesus reveals that we win by becoming vulnerable, not by becoming more powerful over others to protect ourselves or control them. This theme runs throughout all the teachings of Jesus and the Bible like the golden thread that must be seen as the only safe path leading us to the New Jerusalem.
I believe that those who finally grasp this truth and become willing to allow it to define their lives, their relationships, their choices and their views about how to live life in Christ, these will be the ones who will reflect the same truth as seen in the life and example of Jesus who shows us God. Not until we are willing to be completely vulnerable while trusting fully in letting God lead us in this path that seems so foreign and frightening to us will we begin to have much impact for change in this world.
The early believers were a nucleus of people who saw this very clearly and came together in total vulnerability and began to experience the intense joy that can only be found in such a safe environment. The intensity of their vulnerability with each other was so strong that when a couple exploiters tried to insert themselves quietly into that sacred space, they immediately became exposed and died (Ananias and Sapphira). It was not God who killed them but rather the shock of realizing the extent of transparency required to live in the presence of God's passionate love that everyone else was enjoying.
It seems completely contradictory to one who rejects the idea of vulnerability to insist that God's passionate love is so potent that those who refuse to live completely vulnerable cannot live in that environment. Yet the truth is that we must become totally transparent, free of all resistance (desires for exploitation, blame, self-protection, etc.) and completely open and trusting in God's ways and plans for us. If we do not, when we become exposed to the intensity of that love in God's presence, it will produce within us a reaction caused by our resistance that will feel like a fire that burns and tortures us.
It seems baffling and even contradictory to an unbeliever in God's ways of vulnerability that love could produce torture with no desire to harm. But that is the reality, and until we begin to grasp this truth and come into harmony with this principle even now, we will continue to store up wrath – internal resistance, defensiveness, blame, desires for revenge and exploitation (Romans 2:5) – that when exposed to the atmosphere of passionate love found in the hearts of the totally vulnerable and the heart of God, that love will react inside to ignite a pain and torture like no exploiter could every produce.
It is this spirit of exploitation that must be purged from our hearts if we are ever to become safe to live in the atmosphere of total freedom that defines heaven and in the earth made new.
The spirit of exploitation is not just found in those who are obvious exploiters; it is also fostered in the hearts of victims. That is why it is not safe to assume that if we are not the obvious abusers but only victims that we don't have to cleanse our own hearts of this diabolical spirit. Victims very often are filled with intense desires to acquire enough power to retaliate against abusers. But in this is still seen a reflection of the very same mindset that is driving those abusing them. Temptation is always along the line of reflecting a similar spirit to that which is being used against us. So when we long to 'get even' with anyone who exploits us, we are in fact participating in the very same evil spirit that motivates them and we become just as guilty as they from heaven's perspective.
All this may sound terrifying to many of us at first, for it begins to sound like we are claiming that God is condemning everyone for being exploiters. The good news is that God condemns no one, but our own hearts will produce condemnation as we begin to realize how complicit all of us are in this world that operates on exploitation. None of us are guiltless when it comes to desire for supremacy or power to exploit others for our own benefit or pleasure in some way. This is simply part of the condition of sin in which all of us participate naturally. We cannot escape the fact that we all started out this way, but God is inviting us to escape this trap by allowing His divine nature to dwell inside of us so as to empower us to be able to choose vulnerability instead of craving power over others (Luke 22:25-27).
Even flushing this out here makes me uncomfortable, for I know all too well how much my natural desires tend toward exploitation and how much I feel averse to making myself vulnerable. It is impossible for me to change that life-long perspective in my thinking. But I am beginning to learn that the more I focus my attention and allow my affections and appreciation to be awakened by the truth as seen in Jesus, the more I am starting to feel my heart begin to soften and become attracted to living in such an environment. I sense that we were all designed for complete vulnerability because that is really the only atmosphere where we can feel safe enough to be completely honest, transparent and loved.
We all crave to be loved, embraced and accepted for who we really are. Yet we resist recognizing this as a need to become completely vulnerable because we believe our fears based on past experiences of being exploited and watching similar bad things take place all around us. But we must not pull back from the very door which is our only route to freedom. We must begin to see and believe that living in love requires complete vulnerability. We often like the idea of others making themselves vulnerable to us, but when it comes around to us making ourselves transparent and vulnerable to others we reject that as untenable and impractical and therefore cannot possibly be what God's plan is for our lives.
I cannot escape what I am starting to see both in the life of Jesus and now in the book of Revelation where it is becoming much more clear how God plans to win over evil ultimately. Instead of exercising power and resorting to coercion to suppress, punish or destroy evil using force as we have long assumed was taught in this book, I am now starting to see more clearly that Revelation is about how the winners overcome by learning to live the same way Jesus lived – by loving their enemies while making themselves totally vulnerable to exploiters.
Like Jesus, they learn to entrust their lives to the only One who judges fairly (1 Peter 2:21-24).
Like Jesus, the violently slaughtered Lamb that they follow, they do not love their own lives more than they love their enemies (Revelation 14:4; 12:11).
Like Jesus, they are willing to humble themselves and become so vulnerable that by allowing exploiters to do whatever they desire the very system of exploitation is finally exposed as the fraud that it really is (Philippians 2:3-8).
God will never resort to becoming an exploiter wielding power over His enemies to win through force or coercion as He has been painted out to be. Rather He is going to use a group of people who have finally embraced the same spirit of love that thrives in the atmosphere of vulnerability, who will like their Master demonstrate the superiority of God's kind of love over the spirit of power and exploitation.
This notion is reprehensible to all who want to follow a god who flexes His muscles and resorts to force to punish His enemies and gets revenge for his friends. A God who insists that only through vulnerability can we find the path to real joy and freedom to live in a kingdom of perfect love is of little interest to those who believe that it is impossible to overcome evil with good. Yet the more I discover throughout Scripture the clearer this revelation is becoming – and of course the more disturbing it feels to my natural heart. On the other hand my spirit feels stirrings deep within that tell me this is what brings the greatest satisfaction, the most relief, the most intense joy, for without vulnerability joy and love cannot even exist or be enjoyed.
So let me go back and revisit the outline I made at the beginning.
Exploiter + exploiter = rival
Exploiter + vulnerable = victim
Vulnerable + exploiter = fearful
Vulnerable + vulnerable = friend
Suddenly a passage near the end of Revelation comes alive in a way I never saw before.
He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death. (Revelation 21:7-8 KJV)
What I now see more clearly is that only those willing to renounce the methods and spirit of evil, whether they be exploiters or victims, and choose instead to embrace the kingdom of love where total vulnerability is the norm – only these will find it possible to live joyfully and thrive in that intense environment of love. This is the atmosphere of eternally burning fire that defines God's presence referred to in Isaiah 33:13-17. And if any wish to be a part of those whom God says are His sons and daughters, we must learn now how to live in the same spirit that defines the very atmosphere of heaven.
God, give me the courage and willingness to be vulnerable while trusting You to lead me with Your wisdom. I long to dwell in Your presence and be empowered with Your passionate love. Yet as I see what is needed to live in that high intensity environment my heart begins to tremble in fear.
But You offer to prep me to live with total abandon in Your presence where there is fullness of joy, and I know I am starved for joy at this point in my life. I not only give you permission but I beg You to keep leading me and encouraging me, transforming and empowering me to follow the Lamb even though it means death to all that feels secure and safe and even sensible. I choose Your ways for I want to be restored to a condition where I can thrive in Your love free of all fear.