S (Scripture): 2 Corinthians 4:7 But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us. 8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies. 11 For while we live, we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be made visible in our mortal flesh. 12 So death is at work in us, but life in you.
O (Observation): By “we” Paul may mean the group to which Paul belongs, that is, he and those disciples carrying the Gospel to Corinth and helping to settle new locations in which the Gospel can be read and heard and lived out. I suggest this, because in v. 12, he suggests that this work causes a death in Paul and his disciples, FOR THE SAKE OF “you” (those in the church in Corinth).
Paul makes clear that the carriers of the Gospel message are not the central factor. Paul declares that he and his disciples are but clay jars – imperfect containers for that which is life-giving. The nature of the Gospel is not tarnished, even though the carriers are.
A (Application): As one who supports making disciples who make disciples, I have to keep one very important thing in mind: calling people to follow me is not about following me, but following the One, Jesus Christ himself.
Have you ever made a copy of a copy of a copy, etc? What happens to the content being copied? Yes! It diminishes in quality. The letters and images become more and more fuzzy. If you make copies from the original, you get a clearer picture.
The same would happen if we called others to follow us for the sake of following US, and not following Jesus. So the tricky part (really, the part of us that must die) is that when we share the Gospel and call people to follow, we point to the Gospel and to Jesus and NOT just to us.
The hard part is that calling people to follow is a combination of the message and the messenger. We who carry the Gospel (clay jars) are thus called to be living examples (not perfect examples). We need to give folks something to imitate before they can innovate their own way of carrying the Gospel.
The dying part of this imitation piece is that we have to let go of our way of being a clay jar when our followers (really Jesus’ followers) start to create their own way of being a clay jar.
Remember: we are not in the clay jar-making business…we are about the work of carrying a life-giving Message.
P (Prayer): Lord, help us to lead, and then to get out of the way. Amen.