Bragging rights is a term that has entered our vernacular to describe the right to boast about some sort of great achievement. Boasting or bragging is not something that is often viewed as positive, in fact it is quite the opposite. In our culture there is often the feeling that the person who boasts or brags is setting themselves up for a fall. 2 Corinthians 10.12 always seems to lurk where there is boasting: “let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.” Oddly enough, you might even hear people who have the slightest of connections to the Christian faith quote these words!
However, the man who wrote those words, the apostle Paul, wasn’t immune to boasting.
In 2 Corinthians 7.14-16 he feeds back to the Corinthians the impact they had on his friend Titus when Titus visited them. Titus was happy. His spirit was refreshed (v.13). This pleased Paul no end, because he had boasted to Titus about the Corinthians. He had “bigged them up”. And now Paul was delighted to find that the Corinthians had lived up to what he had told Titus about them. In verse 16 Paul goes further and tells the Corinthians that he is glad he can have complete confidence in them.
I think if we read these words and weren’t told that Paul had written them, we might think the language was a bit excessive. It’s the sort of thing, you might be tempted to think, that you’d read in a self-help book. Certainly not the kind of words you’d expect to hear in church or from a church leader.
Perhaps that is part of the problem. We don’t hear language like this half enough from Christians. We don’t expect to hear it in church. And if we do hear it, we might think it is insincere. We are more concerned about being balanced. Not overstating the case. Being accurate. Those are good qualities, however, they tend to put the brake on the kind of high octane encouragement that draws the best out of people. If Paul had just given Titus a factual account of what was happening at Corinth, he would not have been boasting very much!
Paul had the bragging rights for the church at Corinth. And he used them. Why could he boast in the way he did? Because He could see Christ in the church at Corinth. He could see their strengths and didn’t allow those strengths to be obscured by their weaknesses and problems.
Let’s claim the bragging rights for each other. Let’s not allow the weaknesses and problems that we see to cloud out what Christ is doing in those around us.
The message translates Paul’s boasting as follows:
If I went out on a limb in telling Titus how great I thought you were, you didn’t cut off that limb (2 Corinthians 7.14)
Time to go out on a limb for our fellow-believers.