121I have to boast, even though it doesn't do any good. But I will now talk about visions and revelations given me by the Lord. 2I know a certain Christian man who fourteen years ago was snatched up to the highest heaven (I do not know whether this actually happened or whether he had a vision — only God knows). 3-4I repeat, I know that this man was snatched to Paradise (again, I do not know whether this actually happened or whether it was a vision — only God knows), and there he heard things which cannot be put into words, things that human lips may not speak. 5So I will boast about this man — but I will not boast about myself, except the things that show how weak I am. 6If I wanted to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be telling the truth. But I will not boast, because I do not want anyone to have a higher opinion of me than he has as a result of what he has seen me do and heard me say.
7But to keep me from being puffed up with pride because of the many wonderful things I saw, I was given a painful physical ailment, which acts as Satan's messenger to beat me and keep me from being proud. 8Three times I prayed to the Lord about this and asked him to take it away. 9But his answer was: “My grace is all you need, for my power is greatest when you are weak.” I am most happy, then, to be proud of my weaknesses, in order to feel the protection of Christ's power over me. 10I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and difficulties for Christ's sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
11I am acting like a fool — but you have made me do it. You are the ones who ought to show your approval of me. For even if I am nothing, I am in no way inferior to those very special “apostles” of yours. 12The many miracles and wonders that prove that I am an apostle were performed among you with much patience. 13How were you treated any worse than the other churches, except that I did not bother you for financial help? Please forgive me for being so unfair!
14This is now the third time that I am ready to come to visit you — and I will not make any demands on you. It is you I want, not your money. After all, children should not have to provide for their parents, but parents should provide for their children. 15I will be glad to spend all I have, and myself as well, in order to help you. Will you love me less because I love you so much?
16You will agree, then, that I was not a burden to you. But someone will say that I was crafty, and trapped you with lies. 17How? Did I take advantage of you through any of the messengers I sent? 18I begged Titus to go, and I sent the other Christian brother with him. Would you say that Titus took advantage of you? Do he and I not act from the very same motives and behave in the same way?
19Perhaps you think that all along we have been trying to defend ourselves before you. No! We speak as Christ would wish us to speak in the presence of God, and everything we do, dear friends, is done to help you. 20I am afraid that when I get there I will find you different from what I would like you to be and you will find me different from what you would like me to be. I am afraid that I will find quarrelling and jealousy, hot tempers and selfishness, insults and gossip, pride and disorder. 21I am afraid that the next time I come my God will humiliate me in your presence, and I shall weep over many who sinned in the past and have not repented of the immoral things they have done — their lust and their sexual sins.