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)
It is a very sobering thing to read of some Christian writer or speaker or leader who turns out to have very serious character flaws. Not just a case of media sensationalism but acknowledged failures. A theologian who writes beautifully on the sanctity of marriage having an ongoing affair with another woman. A church leader who exhorts us to be a counter cultural witness to the world and yet succumbs to the world’s values when it comes to exploiting people.
We know we are all incurably imperfect. We never entirely practise what we preach. Our public persona is not quite the same as our private self. But it is more jarring to face up to the failings of those we figured might somehow be above and beyond all that.
It is here we have to take a dose of biblical realism. Read the narratives of the “great ones” in the Old Testament. They wouldn’t last a minute in most church structures: professional standards people would be horrified. The picture is not quite so dramatic in the New Testament but even the great apostle Paul recognises his own fallibility.
God is ceaselessly at work, using weak and sometimes immoral people to advance his rule in the world. In the words of St Ignatius, he uses crooked sticks to draw straight lines. And if we ask why he does things this way, the answer is that he has no choice. We humans are, after all, only human.