This is a very different message than the one that we learn from the world. The world preaches the gospel of competition and comparison.
Paul speaks not only for himself here, but for us. This is a statement of mature humility on his part. It is an understanding, a wisdom, he has come to by experience, through his personal relationship with Jesus Christ. All boasting, even that which would be true, is gone out of him, for he has learned that he is nothing without Jesus Christ.
Paul has come to know a truth about humanity. We are weak. This is a very different message than the one that we learn from the world. The world preaches the gospel of competition and comparison. It tells us that only the strong survive, that being number one is a sign of strength. We are taught never to admit to weakness, or to show weakness. But Paul’s words here contradict the world’s message to us. He says that it is when we are weak that we are strong. Why?
Pride is the “primum peccatum”, the first sin, the Original Sin. Out of this sin all others arise. It is the sin of the ego. Paul used to be a man of pride. It was with the false certitude of his pride that he set out on the road to Damascus to arrest and persecute any who were followers of this Jesus of Nazareth. It was on that road that he personally encountered the One whom he was persecuting. He was “knocked off of his high horse” so to speak. He was humbled by the fact, the reality, of his encounter with the risen Lord, Jesus. By the grace of God, he came to understand that it was his faith in Jesus Christ that made him strong. It was not his vaunted intellect, or his position of authority that made him so. By the grace of God he was able to let go of those things. It was when he willingly and humbly submitted to the will of God that he found his true strength. God used his weaknesses to make him strong. By the time he is writing to the Corinthians, Paul has became content in this wisdom and it has made it possible for him to accept the suffering and the pains of all the “insults, hardships, persecutions, and difficulties” that came his way. He knew that his ability to accept these things for the “sake of Christ” brought the strength of the grace of Christ to all that he did. And such grace has rarely been seen since.
We are human beings. We are not gods, though the world preaches that we are. We are sinners. We all have our weaknesses. But, if we turn those weaknesses over to God, as Paul did, we will be forgiven and healed. We will be given the strength of God’s grace to struggle against them. As we develop the habits of moral character, with and through the grace of God, we will become stronger. God will use those weaknesses for our good, and for the good of others. And we, too, will be able to say with Paul, “For when I am weak, then I am strong.
Lord, help us to see the wisdom of turning away from the false pride of ego and the myth of “self-sufficiency.” Give us the courage to turn our weaknesses over to you. Help us to recognize our absolute need for your grace alone. We pray this in the power of your most holy name, Jesus. Amen!
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