2Corinthians 4:1 Therefore, since it is by God's mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, we do not lose heart. 2 We have renounced the shameful things that one hides; we refuse to practice cunning or to falsify God's word; but by the open statement of the truth we commend ourselves to the conscience of everyone in the sight of God. 3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5 For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus' sake. 6 For it is the God who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 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.
St Paul had a difficult relationship with the Corinthian Christians. By the time he wrote this, he had visited them twice, and in 2 Corinthians indicates that he intends visiting them a third time. He has had to defend his character against misunderstanding and criticism. Some have questioned his authority to teach, while others did not like the way he speaks and writes. He freely admits his own imperfections, suggesting that he is only a “clay jar” holding the treasure of God. His task is to point beyond himself: “we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus' sake” (2 Cor 4:5)
Subsequent history of our faith has seen people in Christian leadership criticized, attacked and vilified. So if we who follow Jesus today find ourselves criticized and unappreciated by church people, we are in good company! Paul was clear – renounce shameful things; proclaim Jesus, and do not give up. Do not be put off by the criticism of other Christians, but rather allow the love of Jesus to shine through our daily actions.
Prayer: Dear Lord, help me to resist the temptation to attack those who criticize me. Instead may I step back and allow you to shine through my words and actions. Amen.
Third Sunday after Epiphany
9. “The Call to Ministry”
The Scripture passage for the day is drawn from Reuben Job and Norman Shawchuck, A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and other Servants, (Nashville, The Upper Room 1983), 65.
This reflection is from my own devotional exercises for the day.