17 June 2011

"Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to stumble, and I am not indignant? If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness." (vv. 29-30)


Paul is arguing passionately in this passage, because he thinks the church in Corinth is being taught the wrong things. More than that, he doesn't think the people teaching them are good people. Apparently those other teachers must have come across as rather arrogant, taking control of the church in Corinth, and bossing people around; putting on airs, and preying upon those who were easily led (verse 19).

What had been brought most strongly to Paul's mind about these other teachers was that they boast. They had a high opinion of themselves, and thought themselves clever and strong. And because they must have known who Paul was, presumably they thought themselves cleverer and stronger than him. 'We are an altogether better class of apostle' might have been their boast.

So what could Paul boast about? On the one hand, he didn't want to play their game. He didn't want to be like them. He didn't want to boast, but instead to be a model of humility (verse 7). Yet he felt so strongly about winning the Corinthians back that he feels he has to boast. So what will he boast about?

It all comes flooding out. What he has to boast about is all the pain and privation he suffered to carry the message of Jesus. This catalogue of pain and struggle becomes his badge of office as an apostle: floggings, shipwrecks, bandits, hunger. And he says that on top of all this, "I am under daily pressure because of my anxiety for all the churches" (v. 28). When he goes on it is to emphasise his empathy: "Who is weak, and I am not weak?" (v.29)

Maybe Paul is right. A good leader is one who has suffered, one who understands something of how people feel.

One wonders what it would be like to receive such a letter. The letter was kept, and later treasured and copied to become part of the Bible, so these words must have been valued. What might they have felt when they read these words? They must have cared about Paul too, and to be reminded of all that he had suffered would have made them stop and think.

To Ponder

Is it a good thing for a leader to have suffered? Why?

Would you trust a leader more if you knew they had faced some of the same kind of struggles that you face?

How might the things you have suffered enable you to help and support others better?

Bible notes author: The Revd Andrew Lunn

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