“If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.”— 2 Corinthians 11:30 (ESV)
The gospel has a unique way of turning our culture on its head. It elevates what our culture degrades and degrades what our culture elevates.
One of the things our culture elevates is strength.
We love to be strong. It’s hardwired in our system to always swirl the ball from weakness to strength.
What we naturally do is find areas where we are better than others, what economists call the ‘comparative advantage’, and use that to manipulate others, buy favours from them and ultimately control them.
It may be your knowledge in a particular field, it may be an education, knowledge of doctrine, the number of years you have been a Christian, a political office you hold, your place in the family, financial status, name it. We will naturally craft strength and power according to the things where we have an advantage over others.
St. Paul had also done the same many years before us. He had persecuted the early followers of Christ, the ones they called “the Way”. Not just that, he had been on the team that successfully executed Stephen with the help of sharp desert rocks (Acts 7:54-60; 22:20)
Paul had developed a reputation because he had learned at the feet of the best theologians of his day, unlike the people who followed The Way. To him, they were unlearned, weak, poor, dirty and smelt like fish (most of these men had been fishermen).
Then, God wrecked him. God took away his power, trashed what he had learned at the feet of Gameliel (Acts 22:3) and turned the High Priest and the Council of Elders against him.
Paul, the hunter, now became Paul the hunted. At this moment when Paul was weak, God started to use him.
Strong people don’t need a Saviour. They can always craft a saviour from their doctorates, medical degrees, political offices, theology, money, spouses, and children among others.
Weak people on the other hand are those who have been driven to despair by God. They have learned the hard way that there is no salvation in things smaller than Jesus, and much less their zeal for God. Out of their weakness, God has drawn them to Himself and has become their help.
In the gospel accounts, all the people Jesus delivered are those who admitted their weakness and how they couldn’t do it on their own. They had lost hope in what this world had to offer and fell at the feet of Him who is the resurrection and the life.
They found hope in Christ alone who came to do for them what they had failed to do for themselves. And in him, they found deliverance and strength. Not their own but His.
Paul, at a deeper level, knew what it meant to admit weak when he wrote to the messed up church in Corinth:
“For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:26-31, ESV).
Friend, there is tremendous freedom in admitting weakness. God is for weak, lowly, poor, losers, dirt-ridden, arrogant beggars who know it. If you are one of these, you have a Saviour in Jesus Christ who is your strength.
That is your Lifeline, AMEN.