Finally, Paul is writing his own letter of recommendation. What makes Paul’s perspective on the Christian faith any better than the other teachers that he criticizes? Why listen to Paul? What gives him legitimacy? Prison, beatings, floggings, stoning, shipwrecks – these are the sort of events that would describe an unsavory character that should be avoided. Good, upstanding citizens then and now would look for legitimacy among those who appear to prosper.
If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. (11:30) Hold on a minute. Maybe you’ve experienced an interview where you have been asked to describe your strengths and weaknesses. I hate that question, because I know I need to be honest enough to admit a weakness just not one that would give anyone cause for concern. But Paul puts his whole sordid history in writing. Of course, all that he has suffered was the result of his unwavering commitment to the risen Christ.
Paul reminds us that Jesus turned conventional values upside down. Jesus was the one taken outside the city wall and executed as a common criminal. Who would follow such a Messiah? Paul was lowered in a basket from the city wall and slipped away. What sort of character recommendation is that? In the next chapter, Paul will say: For when I am weak, then I am strong. (12:10)
Looking for Paul’s legitimacy as a teacher and an apostle? Look at his wounds, a result of his devotion to Christ. When we are under attack, when we are facing struggles – that’s when we are found faithful. Legitimacy is found when life is difficult and faith is life.