first, I always thought of this verse as Paul choosing to be weak- kinda like saying "hey there, o Weak One look I can be weak too" . . . wink wink- we all know he really ISN'T of course, he's just PRETENDING . . . which is what we do, right? When we put on our spiritual humility mask and condescendingly "bless" an unworthy soul with our benevolent "ministry" to them.
I don't think Paul did that.
I think that approach would make Paul sick.
I think that Paul really was weak.
Because, in the preceding verses he lists all of the things that he "became" to reach people . . . a Jew, under the law, without law . . . he really was a Jew, really a Pharisee, and really did live without law . . . so it seems plausible that he really was weak, as well.
But we try never to be weak. Or, when confronted with our own weaknesses, we bury them rather than allowing them to make us humble.
I think that true humility is what Paul was after.
There have been enough humiliating weaknesses in my life to make me all-too familiar with the deep deep sense of loss, the anguish of guilt, or the hopeless feeling that I will never change.
These are the things that ought to draw us, irresistibly, to the weak.
The remembrance of our weakness so that we can identify with the weakness in others; we cannot help but have compassion, give mercy, offer hope.
Secondly, if you have no idea what I am talking about, cannot imagine being weak, have no memory of weakness . . . then read a book.
This is one of the reasons I feel compelled to read fiction.
I puts me in someone else's shoes. Identifies me with their problems, hurts, choices, mistakes. It makes me understand the basic humanity in every person, and the truth that, given the same circumstances, I could find myself in exactly the same place.
It is so easy to judge when we don't know the person we're judging. It is so simple to label a problem when we have never examined it's complexity.
Becoming weak isn't a choice. The choice is to accept that we still are.