Daily Devotion – June 29, 2021 – Dr. Pat Taylor Ellison

2 Corinthians 12:2-10
12:2 I know a person in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven–whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows.
12:3 And I know that such a person–whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows–
12:4 was caught up into Paradise and heard things that are not to be told, that no mortal is permitted to repeat.
12:5 On behalf of such a one I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses.
12:6 But if I wish to boast, I will not be a fool, for I will be speaking the truth. But I refrain from it, so that no one may think better of me than what is seen in me or heard from me,
12:7 even considering the exceptional character of the revelations. Therefore, to keep me from being too elated, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me, to keep me from being too elated.
12:8 Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me,
12:9 but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.
12:10 Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.

Some among us have the capacity for great pride. We are pretty sure we have made a brilliant contribution to life on Earth. If we live in the Upper Midwest, we would never say such a thing out loud. Culture prohibits it. Good manners frown upon it. But we know in our hearts we have done well and privately we relish it.

In the cultures Paul was born and raised in, Greek and Hebrew cultures, boasting was not as frowned upon as it is in ours. People were pretty bold about making claims about their successes. And Paul himself in various letters wrote things about which he could definitely boast – his lineage, his sinless life as a Pharisee, his zeal, and so on.

So in this letter to the equally bold-to-boast Corinthians, why does he seem to be boasting about his infirmity, going on at length about it?

To prove the upside down-ness of the God he was following and preaching about. Jesus was Messiah, king of the Jews, but he lived humbly and died for the sake of others. Paul admits this kind of use of power is “folly to the Greeks,” but to those who are even today still being saved by Christ and his selfless love, this kind of use of power is joy and worth boasting about.

So, a recovering boaster himself, Paul is content to boast about this brilliance of his God, and not his own talents and gifts. If he drew attention to his own gifts, he would be stealing the light of Christ. Paul is willing to be a mere cracked vase or plate, through which light can be seen. He is willing to be the curtain or drape around the edge of which can be seen the glory of God.  God’s power is revealed in/through weakness, and often around the edges of things where we normally focus on the middle. God’s love and brilliance shine through the weakest frayed fringes. And whenever we are weak, we are strong in showing the brilliance of God.

Gracious God, thank you for loving us. Thank you for being a God who focuses more on the fringes than the middle, who shines despite or maybe even because of our weakness. Thank you for letting us be a part of your brilliant mission in the world.  Amen.