Though once again the passage for the day is a gold mine of material, what really impresses me is Paul’s reticence to make himself look better than he really is. He is unwilling to create an exaggerated image of himself—even if (unlike the people giving him grief) he has solid grounds to create such an image.
The line that really jumps out at me is the first half of verse 6: But I refrain from it [boasting], so that no one may think better of me than what is seen in me or heard from me… In other words, Paul doesn’t want people thinking highly of him (and therefore granting him special rights and privileges) based on his reputation, qualifications, or even past experiences.
Paul simply wants the Corinthians to judge him on how faithfully he represents Jesus in the here and now, day in and day out. His credibility rests on the fidelity of his witness to Christ, not on the strength of the claims he or anybody else might make about him.
And interestingly, Paul has found that this witness is so much more powerful in weakness than in strength; in insults, hardships, persecutions and calamities rather than success. For whenever I am weak, Paul writes, then Christ is strong.
That runs so counter to our culture, even in the church, of celebrity and spin. It runs so counter to the way I often try to present myself; to the privileges to which I sometimes feel I am entitled; and to both the things I seek in life and the reasons I seek them.
What would it look like for churches to get off this bigger is better kick; this “successful entrepreneurial pastor kick” where the person leading the church really isn’t a pastor at all but a thinly disguised business person; this glitz and glamour kick; this power kick where culture is shaped not through love or sharing Christ but in attempting to force others to see things our way?
So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, Paul writes, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. That, friends, is a message the church needs to hear today. It’s a message I need to hear. Could it be that you do too?