Fyodor Dostoevsky is most famous for writing Crime and Punishment. But one of his lesser known works, The Idiot, made a more lasting impression on me. The main character is a twenty-six year old Prince Myshkin. He is not the prototypical hero. He seems somewhat naïve. He is very simple in his outlook. And he has some physical infirmities.
He finds himself out of step with the high culture of St. Petersburg. The society is obsessed with money, power and manipulation. It seems that Prince Myshkin will quickly be trampled upon by the selfishness of others. But as the story progresses, Myshkin truly is the hero. He accomplishes things that others cannot. And the wealthy and strong actually begin to admire and envy him. They are enslaved to politics and possessions. And they begin to see that Myshkin is the one who is truly wise and strong in that he has remained free of these things.
Myshkin transforms the society in a way that could never have been predicted. He didn’t do it by force or clever arguments. He conquered through humility and truth. It is likely that Dostoevsky had the pattern of Jesus in mind as he wrote. For Jesus, too, came in weakness without money and without an army. This is usually the nature of a coup d’état. It involves the overthrow of a government but not through overwhelming force. Jesus didn’t launch a frontal attack on sin and Satan. He didn’t destroy him in his deity. Instead, he laid aside his glory and defeated Satan by taking on humanity. He came in the way no one would suspect and launched a surprise attack to recapture his kingdom.
This is God’s consistent mode of operation. He allows the Hebrew slaves to be backed up against the Red Sea. He whittles Gideon’s army down to a meager 300. He pits a young shepherd boy against a giant warrior. We would do well to remember that our weakness is often a setup for God’s power.
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