It is necessary to boast; nothing is to be gained by it, but I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord. 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. And I know that such a person—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows— was caught up into Paradise and heard things that are not to be told, that no mortal is permitted to repeat. On behalf of such a one I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses. 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, 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. Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me, 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. 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. ~ 2 Corinthians 12:1-10
It is easy to get sidelined by Paul's description of this mystical supernatural experience. This strange talk of paradise he's referring to is one that happened to him. And it is something his Corinthian congregation would have been spellbound by, much like today it is easy to get spellbound by charismatic preachers who promise us a good life now or who dazzle us with their confidence and claims of grand spiritual experiences.
But Paul's not having any of that. He deflects on his supernatural experience. That isn't the thing he wants them to focus on. That isn't the thing he has to boast about.
The thing - the one - to boast about, is the one we read about in Philippians. The Christ who humbled himself even to the point of death.
The Christ who was shamed and tortured and abandoned and killed in an execution meant for criminals.
The Christ who was himself made perfect in weakness.
Up until this point, the Corinthians weren't so impressed with this apostle. They wanted some glitz and glamour. They wanted to be dazzled by power and greatness. That, Paul tells them, isn't what makes his apostleship worth boasting about. It is in fact, his weakness that gives him something to boast about.
We still like power and greatness. We want to make things great again. We want winners, not losers. We want to be a superpower.
But like Paul, we find that when we allow ourself to be weak, to be humbled, to be imperfect, to make mistakes, then the power of Christ is able to dwell in us. It is through that power that we become strong.
Holy God, move me toward justice, mercy, and humility in all my dealings with your people. Amen