Thursday, July 5Scripture Reading—I Corinthians 4:8-13
We live in a world where we do almost anything we can to hide our weaknesses. Politicians are slow to admit their mistakes, whether from long ago or in the present. Athletes do not want their opponents to know of their injuries. Why would you want to invite the other team to twist your sprained ankle at the bottom of the pile? Why would you want a prospective employer to know how many times you had to take that math class in college before you finally passed it? Why would you advertise all your bad habits to a prospective spouse on a first date? And why, even around Christian friends you trust, would you want to give people reason to question your spiritual maturity by sharing honestly about all the questions you still have, or all the ways you are not yet a model disciple of Jesus Christ? The Apostle Paul, however, was never too proud to play the weakness card. On more than one occasion when he feels like his authority as an apostle is being questioned, he not only lays out a list of all his accomplishments. But he begins to trot out all his failures, weaknesses, and humiliations. To be sure, in this passage, there’s no shortage of irony and sarcasm. Paul’s had it with those in Corinth who are trying to elevate their spiritual status by associating themselves with some great leader—Peter, Apollos, Jesus—or to brag about their spiritual stature. So, to get their attention, Paul begins to talk about how his only badge of honor as a Christian leader is all his struggles, all his weaknesses, all his humiliations. Contrasting himself with his spiritually proud readers, Paul says he’s been made a spectacle, evoking the image of a prisoner being dragged before an arena of bloodthirsty fans in a crowded arena. Paul says he is a fool for the sake of Christ, that he is weak, that he is hungry, thirsty, poorly clothed. He’s been beaten, homeless, reviled, persecuted, and slandered. He says he has become like the rubbish of the world. You can’t develop a much worse resume than that! Paul’s point is more than rhetorical, though. He’s not just being sarcastic. He believed at the core of his being that serving Christ was the most wonderful thing in the world, and that more often than not, the best evidence of one’s faithfulness was not worldly success and approval, but an ability to suffer any hardship that being faithful brought on. In his moments of greatest suffering, humiliation, and difficulty, Paul felt closest to Christ. In his abject weakness and need, he experienced the power of God at work, helping him to be faithful. How about us? Could we ever see our weaknesses, struggles, failures, and rejections as opportunities for Christ’s power to be made visible, or are we still too proud—or ashamed—to be honest about who we really are?
Thought for the day: All of us have weaknesses. All of us have failed. All of us are imperfect. Could we ever be so liberated by the assurance of God’s acceptance of us that we begin to openly admit these things we’d rather hide them? Could we allow our wounds and disappointments to become vehicles for God’s grace and love to be made plain to others?
Prayer: O God, we are so proud. We do not want to admit to ourselves, or anyone else, all the ways we struggle, falter, and fail. Help us to learn to boast not only in our strengths, but in our weaknesses, so that even there, your love is revealed to the world. Amen.