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. (NRSV)
Someone who wonderfully cared for the severely disabled is found to be sexually immoral and manipulative. Someone who has brought many to Christ is discovered to be a liar and an adulterer. Someone who has led a church which has blessed so many other churches around the world is reported as guilty of harassment and bullying.
All this can make us wonder at the integrity of their ministry. While we rightly condemn such behaviour and feel a betrayal of trust, we ought not take the extra step and assume such misconduct invalidates their ministries.
As our text reminds us, God uses fragile and fallible people to achieve his purposes. A clay jar is not worthless: it does perform an important function. The failures of prominent or less prominent individuals need not blind us to the good they have otherwise achieved. Proper condemnation of wrongdoing does not undo the right and proper things they have done.
It seems in our rather mixed-up world that people can be blessed by those who have also done great harm. In no way does that excuse the harm or imply the person never suffers the consequence of that harm. But anyone who does good to us and for us is a clay jar, capable of both right and wrong.
As St Ignatius said, God uses crooked sticks to draw straight lines.
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