Boasting. Depending on who you talk to, it is either the height of ego and something to be avoided, or the height of accomplishment and something else at which to outdo your competition. Kanye West. Terrell Owens. Ochocinco. (If that last one is foreign to you, ask a football fan)
We would expect the biblical opinion of boasting to be staunchly against it. Indeed, Lee pointed out just this past Sunday in his sermon on the love chapter (1 Corinthians 13) that "love does not boast". But Paul turns that assumption on it's head when, two chapters in a row, he talks about a sort of boasting that he himself engages in.
"Let him who boasts boast in the Lord"
"If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness"
In fact, I think he is saying the same thing here in different ways. Because if Paul boasts about the things that show his weakness, it is not so that his weaknesses look great. It is so God looks great in our weakness.
This is what the grace of Christ does. This is what the mercy of the Lord makes possible. Things that would be our shame, the hidden weaknesses and shortcoming that would be only our private guilt, reveals the power and grace of Christ in our lives.
Now we can say, "I was this way, but by the grace of God and no strength of my own . . . "
"I am struggling with this, but the Holy Spirit is slowly changing me . . ."
"I was lost, rebellious, angry and resentful towards God. I was going my own way, but his kindness and mercy led me to repentance . . ."
When you are before man or God, do you still boast in what you have done? Do you still boast in who you are on your own strength? Is your boasting to make much of you, or to make much of Christ?