"If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness." — 2 Cor 11:30 (NIV)
Reflecting on the Scripture text today - the life of Paul before and after his conversion experience on the road to Damascus. Before the resurrected Christ revealed His Divinity to Paul, with these soul-scorching words which burned deep into the core of his zealous Jewish soul, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?", Paul was in his own words, a Pharisee of Pharisees, a high flyer in the Jewish religious community and was armed with letters from the high priest to weed out (exterminate) followers of what he deemed as blasphemous teachings of Jesus. In this Divinely-appointed encounter, Jesus revealed Himself as the resurrected Christ and gave this fiery preacher a new Mission in life. A mission to bring the gospel to the Gentile nations and preach the Good News until his dying breath as a prisoner in chains.
Before his encounter with the Risen Christ, the Zealous Saul (the Apostle Paul), had relied on his human wit - being trained by Gamaliel, a man held in great esteem by all Jews, and faithfully adhered to complex religious rules that bounded the Pharisees. He had considered himself a man of God and for God, and had often boasted of his Jewish lineage and great learning to obtain letters to persecute early Christian followers.
Yet in the aftermath of his Damascus encounter with the Risen Christ, his spiritual eyes were finally opened to see that Jesus was truly the Son of God, and the Promised Messiah whom all the Major and Minor Prophets had written about and longed to see in their lifetime. It was also in fact the fulfillment of all the laws with 2 beautiful Commandments that bounded all the Laws of God:
"Jesus replied: 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." (Matthew 22:37-40).
This was why he was able to write with much joy even in the depths of suffering these encouraging words to the persecuted Christians in the church of Philippi, "If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless. But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ – the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ – yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead..." (Philippians 3:4-11).
Words that parallel what he wrote in his 2nd Epistle to the church in Corinth, "If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, who is to be praised forever, knows that I am not lying." (2 Corinthians 11:30-31).
Therefore, my personal reflections in the light of Paul's writing is this: As a child of God, if there is anything to be boasted, it will be in God's love for me - a broken and sinful human, who was destined for Hell, if Christ had not revealed Himself to me as the Son of God, and living personal God and Saviour - and propelled me on this new life journey to proclaim His faithfulness and goodness in my own life until my dying breath.
It's my prayers too, as we live in unprecedented times - where an invisible virus has confounded brilliant scientists and top government officials, while wreaking a horrendous toll in human lives and stalled economies - that the Church of Christ may rise up to proclaim the glory of our Risen LORD who has the power to raise the dead and heal the sick, in body, mind, and spirit, because we truly have no idea when our Lord will return to rule the Earth with His conquering heavenly hosts. Amen.
I will close with these Spirit-inspired words - written by the Prophet who had experienced much heartache in his lifetime, witnessing the apostasy of the nation of Israel, the departure of God's Shekinah glory from His Temple, and an unbearable desecration of the Temple in Jerusalem by a pagan king Antiochus IV in 167 BC:
"This is what the Lord says: 'Let not the wise boast of their wisdom or the strong boast of their strength or the rich boast of their riches, but let the one who boasts boast about this: that they have the understanding to know me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,' declares the Lord. 'The days are coming,' declares the Lord, 'when I will punish all who are circumcised only in the flesh – Egypt, Judah, Edom, Ammon, Moab and all who live in the wilderness in distant places. For all these nations are really uncircumcised, and even the whole house of Israel is uncircumcised in heart.'" (Jeremiah 9:23-26).
Reflection on 2 Corinthians 11:16-33 by Chris Tan