Boast of weakness

Very often we want to show ourselves worthy, whether it would be worthy of love, worthy of respect, worthy of attention, worthy to be paid, and so much more. This happens regularly in our relationships with other people, but also in our relationship with God. People do “religious” activities, things that they believe that will make God pleased with them, and in that way, God will put a type of stamp of approval upon them.

Our relationship with God certainly doesn’t work that way, and over time, neither do our relationships with other people. As we get to know other people, and they get to know us, we are known not only for our strengths, that which we have put forward for others to see, but also for our weaknesses, those things that may make us seem less worthy, or unworthy, of whatever it is that we tried to be considered worthy of in the first place.

As Paul writes 2 Corinthians, there is a situation happening that others are coming in to Corinth to present themselves as true apostles, or as Paul says, “super-apostles”. They are preaching a gospel that Paul suspects is different than the Gospel that he had preached to them. And they hold themselves up as being the real deal because they are great speakers. They are gifted in preaching and teaching, and the Corinthians are beginning to judge Paul in the light of the giftings of the other teachers. They have said that Paul writes forcefully, but he isn’t very impressive in person. They have said that he seems timid and doesn’t speak well when he is with them.

But Paul isn’t deterred. He knows that the kingdom of God isn’t an issue of how forcefully you speak, or how well you teach. Paul is confident in the Gospel that he has spoken to the Corinthians and he is aware of both his own failings and what his detractors say about him. He isn’t worried, because this isn’t about him. He isn’t trying to get the Corinthians to follow him. He is working to convince the Corinthians that the Gospel that he has preached to them is correct, and if there is any other Gospel that they hear, they have been misled.

Paul realizes, and tells the Corinthians, that it isn’t his strength that is the question, but it is his weakness. It is in his weakness that he should boast:

If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.

2 Corinthians 11:30

Paul has a long list of reasons why he is a true apostle, and significantly more than anyone else that might come to them. But that isn’t the issue. Those reasons, in the end, are actually nothing because it is actually Paul’s weaknesses that are at issue.

But why would that be? Why would Paul want to put forward his weakness and boast about that to the Corinthians? Or to anyone else for that matter?

It is because Paul is attempting to point the Corinthians to Christ, not to himself. The other “super-apostles” hold themselves up as having great virtues. They hold themselves up as having great talents, and they attempt to have others follow them because of those talents. And the Corinthians are enticed. They are worldly and they see the worldly talents and are seduced by them. But Paul is trying to explain that the kingdom of God works in precisely the opposite way. He is strong only because of Christ. The truth is that he is weak and any strength that he has, it is because of the strength that Christ has put within him.

And this is the same truth also for us. Each of us also is weak. Anything that we would boast, anything that we would say about ourselves, we should recognize that it isn’t of ourselves, but it is of Christ. The world wants to hold up the frail talents of individual human beings, talents that will soon pass away and mean nothing. But in the kingdom of God, Christ is King and he and his kingdom will last forever. Our boast is our weakness because Christ has made us strong.

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