The geeky guys in TV’s Big Bang Theory can’t wait for the next Comic-Con. These comic book conventions have been held annually in San Diego since the 1970s, and several episodes of the T.V. series have centered around the four guys’ obsession with immersing themselves in this comic world of fantasy. Penny just shakes her head.

I collected and traded comic books as a boy, so I kind of get it. But I don’t think I ever took it to the level that I could be labeled a Comic Book Nerd. However, I’ve been through other phases of nerdiness during my life.

My church taught us that as Christians we were supposed to be separate from the world, and our lives should show the difference in our values. So, during elementary school years, I tried to be as different as possible. I didn’t swear or tell dirty stories, and I hung out with others who followed the same pattern. In Sunday School, I memorized the books of the Bible, and I practiced so I could win sword drills (who can find and read a particular Bible verse the fastest?). Yes, I was a Church Nerd.

Since my first childhood visit to the Bronx Zoo in New York City, I found myself fascinated with animals in the wild. The first book I remember reading was Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book. In my early teens, I became fascinated with butterflies, and I caught, preserved and mounted all the species I could find, developing an impressive collection. I joined an after-school Biology Club led by a strange, socially-isolated teacher. Some days it was just the two of us. Of course, when I went off to college, I chose biology as my major. I was clearly a Biology Nerd.

But wait, there was also another track during those years. Both my parents played brass instruments, so band music was part of our family life. Beginning in my freshman year of high school, I played the baritone horn, then the sousaphone. The high school band got me into football games free, but I also played in a band at church and in a community band that marched in parades and gave concerts. I was among a group of about half-a-dozen high school band members, all guys, who ate lunch every day in the band director’s office. Everybody around school knew us the Band Nerds.

Nerds are seen as weak; the opposite of athletic jocks. The jocks get the popular girls, while the nerds get — well — nerdy girls. But when I look back on my life and reflect on the lives of others, I come to this conclusion: I’d rather really care about something, even if it’s weird, than to be too cool to care about anything. So, nerdiness can really be seen as a display of strength, not weakness.

Do I have any Scripture to back this up? Yes. I challenge you to read the strangest passage from the pen of the Apostle Paul, found in 2 Corinthians 11 and 12, where he tries to correct and call back believers who had drifted from their faith roots. He begins with these words: “I wish you would bear with me in a little foolishness.” From there on, he takes his readers on a two-page roller coaster ride, full of irony and satire. He tries on a variety of exaggerated Nerd costumes to make his point: the Bookworm Nerd (11:6), the Excessive Humility Nerd (11:7), the Super-Religious Nerd (11:22-23), the Super-Suffering Nerd (11:23-27) and the Visions and Revelations Nerd (12:1).

Interspersed with these Nerd images are repeated references to his weakness: 11:21, 29, 30, 12:5, 7-10.

It finally becomes clear that what he has been referring to as weakness is really his greatest strength:

The Lord said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me…whenever I am weak, then I am strong. (12:8-10)

The ultimate point of Paul’s message is that he cares for them more than they can imagine, because Jesus Christ has made him a Love Nerd (See 11:7-11).

— Pastor George Van Alstine