When I was 8 years old I was playing on monkey bars at our elementary school playground. I don’t remember why but my feet slipped out from under me and I woke up on the ground with blood all over my face and a group of kids along with my second grade teacher looking down on me. They picked me up and brought me to the nurse’s station where my parents came and got me for a trip to the hospital. I remember to this day what the nurse said. “Don’t worry kid, chicks dig scars.” I had no idea what he was talking about. I later learned that girls supposedly find scars and the stories behind them attractive. They somehow make a man more manly.
The problem with our logic behind scars is we grow deeper into it rather than out of it. We somehow feel that scars are proof that we are tough rather than evidence of our weakness. Paul didn’t feel this way when he said in 2 Corinthians 12:5-10:
“On behalf of such a man I will boast; but on my own behalf I will not boast, except in regard to my weaknesses. For if I do wish to boast I will not be foolish, for I will be speaking the truth; but I refrain from this, so that no one will credit me with more than he sees in me or hears from me. Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself! Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”
Paul is talking about a completely different type of leadership than we’re used to seeing. He’s saying the way up is down. That isn’t something you see, hear, or read about in the dog-eat-dog world of business. Paul tells us that our scars not only define us, but they identify us with Christ.
Paul is pretty clear that our weakness is what we boast in, not our strength. Because, in boasting in our weakness we are reminding ourselves and testifying to others of God’s power at work in us and despite us.
The reality of Christian ministry is that far too often I’ve seen and heard stories of people who have been used and abused by the churches they serve. The scars they bear are very real and very painful. How do we deal with our own scars and at the same time lead in a way that is bold, yet keeps people foremost in all our decisions? I think the answer is found in Paul’s letter to the Galatians where he says,
“But may it never be that I would boast, except n the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Galatians 6:14).
Boasting in the cross is us saying I find my identity in Christ and what He did for me, not in what I can do for Him.
When we boast in the cross, we boast in our weakness rather than excuse it. We all hate admitting we’re wrong. We all hate failing, and when we do we go into crisis management mode. We make excuses so that we appear strong rather than acknowledging that we are weak and in need of God’s help.
Boasting in the cross frees us from anxiety. Anxiety comes from us not being in control. When we aren’t in control we freak out. We worry. When we remember what Christ did for us, how He lived for us, and how He died for us, it frees us from the worry that we are unloved, unsupported, or unacknowledged. When we worry we put undo pressure on our boss, our spouse, and our kids to be for us what only Christ can provide for us.
Boasting in Christ-Crucified places our trust in what is trustworthy. The reality we don’t like to admit is that every human relationship breaks down at some point. We let our spouse down. We fail to keep our word to our kids. Our boss fails to recognize our efforts in a way we feel they should. What Paul goes out of his way to tell us is that even when others fail us because of the brokenness of humanity, we have a Savior who went to the uttermost to save, redeem, and rescue us because He loves us. He tells us that He will be with us even until the end. That sounds too good to be true. How do we know that is true? Because of the cross of Christ. He not only suffered for us, He suffered instead of us. That’s why we can trust Him no matter what.
What is interesting to me is the wounds that Jesus bore for you and for me were on His glorified body. They were a means by which the disciples, Thomas in particular, could recognize Him. As pastors, parents, and those who minister to kids, we must not allow the scars that we get in ministry life to define us. We must, however, allow those scars to identify us with the One who loves us to the uttermost.
When we identify with our own scars rather than identifying with His wounds for you and for me, our boast becomes how we were wronged and how we survived, rather than how we are loved beyond what we deserve and how Christ sufficiently supplies all that we need.
“God allows us to experience the low points of life in order to teach us lessons that we could learn in no other way.”
― C.S. Lewis
In our weakness, He is strong. Pastors, leaders, parents … let your boast be not in how you were wronged but in Him who lived for you and died instead of you. Boast not in the scars you have received, but boast in Christ crucified.
Sam is the campus pastor and global family pastor of Redeemer Church in Upstate New York. He and his wife Sandra have 4 beautiful children. Sam has been a contributing editor of KidzMatter Magazine for 4 years and blogs regularly at samluce.com.