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. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies.
—2 Corinthians 4:7-10
Leonard Cohen has a song, Anthem, with a great line in the refrain that you may know:
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.
Perhaps you’ve heard this passage from 2 Corinthians 4 quoted, the part about having treasure in clay jars. Maybe you have sung Matt Redman’s song, that quotes the next few lines of 2 Corinthians. You may not, however, have heard this passage as a whole or remembered that it was all together. There are so many powerful words in just a few, short verses.
When we read the passage as a whole, Paul makes several things clear: Human beings are fragile. Following Jesus Christ will confuse us, hurt us and cause people to make fun of us or even physically harm us. Friends and family might not understand why we do and say the things we believe. And yet, these things will not destroy us.
We will stand up again. God is with us all the way. For when we follow in the way of Jesus the Christ, we also carry the life of Christ, and it is our scars, our failures and our cracks, that actually show others the life and light of Jesus.
If we were hermetically sealed, airtight, titanium canisters that wouldn’t crack under pressure or break open when banged around, well then we probably wouldn’t need the type of healing life Jesus offers. If we had it inside us, no one would be able to see it. It would be hidden away. We are supposed to let that light shine! If we are fragile, clay jars that get chipped and cracked, with pieces shattered or missing, then the light that has taken hold of us and filled us will peek through those imperfections.
Japanese potters have a technique called Kintsugi, a means to repair broken pottery that actually transforms it into something new and beautiful. They repair the cracks with lacquer and dust the lacquer with gold so that all of the cracks are now shining with gold. Perhaps that is what Christ does for us – as the love of Christ shines through our broken cracks, those cracks are healed, not so that others cannot see them, but so that they shine with the light of God forever.
If you feel are afflicted in every way, remember you have not been crushed. If at times you feel perplexed, know that you have not been driven to despair. When others persecute you, know that you have not been forsaken. Remember that you have been struck down, but not destroyed. Rejoice when you are persecuted for righteousness’ sake. With every blow you are carrying in your body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also fill in the cracks.
Reflect: What are some ways that the light of God has shown through your own wounds? How can we be better at becoming vulnerable, allowing others to see our cracks, so they may also see how God has made them beautiful?
Notes are from A Heart for Reconciliation, by Megan Hansen and Michael Rinehart. Available on Amazon, it offerers daily readings through 2 Corinthians.
The texts for the six weeks in the Narrative Lectionary are as follows.
- 5/22/2016: 2 Cor 1:1-11, Consolation
- 5/29/2016: 2 Cor 2:1-10, Forgiveness
- 6/5/2016: 2 Cor 4:1-15, Treasure in Clay Jars
- 6/12/2016: 2 Cor 4:16—5:10, Walk by Faith not Sight
- 6/19/2016: 2 Cor 5:11-21, Reconciliation
- 6/26/2016: 2 Cor 8:1-15, Generosity