I hope you will put up with a little of my foolish bragging. But you are already doing that.
My jealousy for you comes from God himself. I promised to give you to only one husband. That husband is Christ. I wanted to be able to give you to him as if you were a pure virgin.
But Eve was tricked by the snake's clever lies. And I'm afraid that in the same way your minds will somehow be led down the wrong path. They will be led away from your true and pure love for Christ.
Suppose someone comes to you and preaches about a Jesus different from the Jesus we preached about. Or suppose you receive a spirit different from the one you received before. Or suppose you receive a message of good news different from the one you accepted earlier. You put up with those kinds of things easily enough.
But I don't think I'm in any way less important than those "super-apostles."
I may not be a trained speaker. But I do have knowledge. I've made that very clear to you in every way.
When I preached God's good news to you free of charge, I put myself down in order to lift you up. Was that a sin?
Did I rob other churches when I received help from them so that I could serve you?
When I was with you and needed something, I didn't cause you any expense. The believers who came from Macedonia gave me what I needed. I haven't caused you any expense at all. And I won't ever do it.
I'm sure that the truth of Christ is in me. And I'm just as sure that nobody in Achaia will keep me from bragging.
Why? Because I don't love you? No! God knows I do!
And I will keep on doing what I'm doing. That will stop those who claim they have things to brag about. They think they have a chance to be considered equal with us.
People like that are false apostles. They work hard to trick others. They only pretend to be apostles of Christ.
That comes as no surprise. Even Satan himself pretends to be an angel of light.
So it doesn't surprise us that those who serve Satan pretend to be serving God. They will finally get exactly what they should.
I will say it again. Don't let anyone think I'm a fool. But if you do, receive me just as you would receive a fool. Then I can do a little bragging.
When I brag about myself like this, I'm not talking the way the Lord would. I'm talking like a fool.
Many are bragging the way the people of the world do. So I will brag like that too.
You are so wise! You gladly put up with fools!
In fact, you even put up with anyone who makes you a slave or uses you. You put up with those who take advantage of you. You put up with those who claim to be better than you. You put up with those who slap you in the face.
I'm ashamed to have to say that I was too weak for that! What anyone else dares to brag about, I also dare to brag about. I'm speaking like a fool!
Are they Hebrews? So am I. Do they belong to the people of Israel? So do I. Are they Abraham's children? So am I.
Are they serving Christ? I am serving him even more. I'm out of my mind to talk like this! I have worked much harder. I have been in prison more often. I have suffered terrible beatings. Again and again I almost died.
Five times the Jews gave me 39 strokes with a whip.
Three times I was beaten with sticks. Once they tried to kill me by throwing stones at me. Three times I was shipwrecked. I spent a night and a day in the open sea.
I have had to keep on the move. I have been in danger from rivers. I have been in danger from robbers. I have been in danger from people from my own country. I have been in danger from those who aren't Jews. I have been in danger in the city, in the country, and at sea. I have been in danger from people who pretended they were believers.
I have worked very hard. Often I have gone without sleep. I have been hungry and thirsty. Often I have gone without food. I have been cold and naked.
Besides everything else, every day I am concerned about all the churches. It is a very heavy load.
If anyone is weak, I feel weak. If anyone is led into sin, I burn on the inside.
If I have to brag, I will brag about the things that show how weak I am.
I am not lying. The God and Father of the Lord Jesus knows this. May God be praised forever.
In Damascus the governor who served under King Aretas had their city guarded. He wanted to arrest me.
But I was lowered in a basket from a window in the wall. So I slipped through the governor's hands.