Listen to these words of Paul to the Corinthians:
“For we are not writing to you anything other than what you read and understand and I hope you will fully understand–– just as you did partially understand us–– that on the day of the Lord Jesus you will boast of us as we will boast of you” (2 Cor. 1:13-14).
The last line may be somewhat peculiar to us. It is Paul’s desire on the day of the Lord that he and the Corinthians will be boasting about one another. The idea of “boasting” is a key theme in 2 Corinthians. The word is used 29 times in the letter, but mostly in a negative sense. This is one of the few places in which boasting is used positively. In fact, it is to be a goal for Christians on the day we come before the Lord.
This should cause us to ask ourselves a critical question: when considering our fellow Christians, are we excited about the day in which we can boast about them before the Lord? There is a follow-up question I had to ask myself: has it ever even crossed our minds that when we get to heaven we should be boasting about our brothers and sisters? Possibly an even more pointed question would be whether we have considered boasting about each other while we are still in this life? Surely if we do not boast now, we will not be boasting later.
Indeed, it is more likely that we have often spoken ill of our brothers rather than boasting about them. In some cities, whole churches are estranged from each other over petty differences that took place 30-50 years ago, and of which the present membership has no personal knowledge nor was a participant. And yet, the bad-mouthing and bitterness continues. Do we believe that “on that day” the Lord will tell us it is time to kiss and make up since there is an eternity ahead of us? Paul had no intention of letting that kind of attitude continue between him and the Corinthians. If we can’t imagine ourselves boasting about our brethren in heaven, then it is very possible we won’t be there (1 Jn. 4:20-21)!
Paul’s Path to Positive Boasting
Paul’s relationship with the Corinthians had to be extremely frustrating. He made significant sacrifices, giving up his life for their salvation. But false teachers caused them to question Paul’s motives with everything he said or did. If he didn’t keep his travel plans, he couldn’t be trusted. If he refused pay for his work with them, it was an indication that he wasn’t worth it as a preacher and was using false humility to make even more money when he asked for a contribution for the poor saints. The accusations went on and on, which is the reason Paul repeatedly reminded them that he was being completely open with them and had no hidden agenda (1:13; 4:1). Paul’s plea is summarized in 6:11-13: “We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians; our heart is wide open. You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted in your own affections. In return (I speak as to children) widen your hearts also.” This was the key to their ability to boast of one another on that day.
The same is true for us. Do we hide our true intentions? While pretending to love, do we play a political game in our churches as we look to protect our own position and promote an agenda that fulfills our personal passions? Paul told the Corinthians that he did everything “for their joy” so that they could “stand firm in their faith.” He did this all because of “the abundant love” he had for them. Therefore, Paul only wrote what they could “read and understand,” and thus his desire was that they “fully understand” him and the work he and his companions were doing on their behalf. “Speaking freely” with our “hearts wide open” while denying ourselves of “our own affections” will draw us all together in a deep love and a positive boasting.
What will it take for us to boast of one another on that day? It needs to begin now. Isn’t it wonderful when we hear that our fellow Christians have spoken well of us? We love that behind-the-back, good gossip. Instead, it is too easy to think of each other’s flaws and weaknesses. Were the Corinthians flawed? Indeed! But that did not change Paul’s intent of boasting about them both in this life and in the life to come. We boast about our children and they are flawed. We can certainly boast about one another because we are all children of God and our flaws and sins have been forgiven.
So, where is good boasting? It is boasting in the Lord, but it is also practicing our boasting so that on that day “you will boast of us as we will boast of you.” Let’s get ready for our boast of those with whom we will share our eternal home.