Jars of Clay: Model Leadership

jars - calendar2 Corinthians 5:16-6:13

The story so far! How we show God’s glory when we are jars of clay? OR “Call yourself a Christian!”

How do you know what great Christian leadership looks like?  Is it the same as great secular leadership?  Particularly, does suffering and weakness in a leader imply they are not living in the power of the Spirit? Paul is relentless in his response: The greatest display God’s power is not the absence of pain or the presence of a miracle, but in faithful endurance in the midst of adversity, through which God “makes many rich” (6:10).

This then is a "leaders identity card."  It doesn’t tell us everything about leadership!

1. Jars of Clay leaders live for others (6.1-3)

• The call to leadership is a call to live for others

• Great leaders do not need recommendations from others or bragging (3:1; 5:12)

• The commendation that counts is the faithfulness of God in one’s life, as evidenced in faithful endurance (3:1-6, 10:16-18)

2. Jars of Clay leaders do not just suffer but endure (6:4-10)

• By itself, suffering is the consequence of sin

• Suffering is not a noble and purifying virtue

• Suffering and endurance on behalf of others is not masochism but mission.

• Self-denial for Christ’s sake is not a sacrifice, but the pathway to gaining life itself (Mark 8:34-48)

3. Jars of Clay leaders anticipate a response (6:11-13)

• Genuine leadership in the power of the Spirit anticipates a genuine response (5:10, 18, 20-21)

By appealing for the affections of the Corinthians, Paul is fighting for their lives. Far from engaging merely in private speculation or simply sharing his feelings, Paul speaks on the basis of God’s self-revelation in space and time (5:18, 20-21) and against the backdrop of the universal judgment of Christ (5:10). His confidence in the truth of his message and in the transparency of his testimony leads him to expect that those who know God will open their hearts to him too.

Today such declarations of the gospel as a "public truth” that makes a personal claim on others are met with scepticism. Throughout the West there is a general mistrust of the motives and message of anyone who claims to represent God and his Word.

Leslie Newbiggin:
[Mission in Birmingham] is much harder than anything I met in India. There is a cold contempt for the Gospel which is harder to face than opposition.  England is a pagan society and the development of a truly missionary encounter with this very tough form of paganism is the greatest intellectual and practical task facing the Church. When the Church affirms the gospel as public truth it is challenging the whole of society to wake out of the nightmare of subjectivism and relativism, to escape from the captivity of the self turned in upon itself, and to accept the calling which is addressed to every human being to seek, acknowledge, and proclaim the truth.

Faced with competing truth claims, Paul gives evidence for the truth of his own position, confident that God has entrusted him with both the ministry and message of both repentance (6:11-13) and reconciliation (5:18-19, 6:3-10).

We too, like Paul, must be willing to state our message openly before the court of public evaluation, thereby taking the risk of being wronged.  Moreover, we must be willing also to challenge publicly the ideas of others. The church cannot:

”continue to accept the security which is offered in an agnostic pluralism where we are free to have our own opinions provided we agree that they are only personal opinions." 

4. Jars of Clay leaders act from a position of weakness (6:4-10)

When Paul speaks, he does so from a position of weakness before the Corinthians, not from a platform of power over them.

Under the convicting work of Holy Spirit, Paul’s only power is the persuasion of the gospel as it is embodied in his life and in the lives of those who join him in the ministry (3:9; 6:7). The same remains true today.

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