Thursday of Pentecost 2 – II Corinthians 4:5-12

For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11 For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. 12 So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.

On June 12, 1964, the apartheid government of South Africa sentenced Nelson Mandela to prison for life. He was a leader in a guerilla movement which was seeking to undo the state of South Africa, but at the time of his arrest he was not by any means the most important member of that movement. In prison, however, something strange happened. The government thought it was silencing him and rendering him powerless. But his years at Robben Island and later at another maximum-security prison saw his stature and voice grow. Finally, as the apartheid regime was collapsing in 1990, Mandela was freed. But the man who walked out of prison was far greater than the man who had been imprisoned. His suffering and imprisonment had not diminished him, indeed, it had rendered him far more important and given him a far greater voice.

Paul says that we have a heavenly treasure in jars of clay. In fact, the suffering to which we are subjected, the brokenness of our bodies and even our own sinful failures often are the vehicles which God uses to convey his message. Because we are not super-human, powerful beings, because we are just as liable to destruction as the rest of the world, we carry around the death of Jesus in our bodies, but that ends up revealing the life of Jesus in us too. Perfect people are hardly a witness to forgiveness. They don’t need it. The best witness to forgiveness might be the man or woman who has been forgiven for something monstrous.

Many people point out the foibles and failures of the Christian church today and would suggest that this is reason for its rejection. I cannot but regret and repent of all that is wrong, but to reject is really missing the point. God has been calling broken people to Jesus’ side since the days of His ministry in Galilee. Indeed, the Israelites of old were hardly examples of rectitude and steadfast faithfulness. The point seems to be that God is not put off by our weakness and sin, rather He is moved to forgive, renew, and restore us.

Scroll to Top