2 Corinthians 4:7-11 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.

One of the few things Joyce wanted when we returned to the USA was a stainless steel kitchen sink. I remember when mixing bowls were tempered glass or plastic. For years they have been stainless steel. This year I note another change. In the past, portable cooking grills were made of painted steel. This year I see lots of stainless steel portable grills. If stainless steel can do it, that seems to be the way to go!

While we humans are "into" stainless steel, God is not. When He sent His son to this world, Jesus did not come as "the stainless steel man," but as a servant. When Jesus chose 12 disciples, he did not select "stainless steel men." A common complaint against the 12: they were ordinary people. Paul did not consider himself a "stainless steel" Christian. Nor did he look at those whom God ruled and used as "stainless steel" Christians. Paul saw Christians, from leadership down, as clay pots.

While clay pots have many good uses, there are many uses clay pots, of themselves, cannot serve. [In Paul's analogy, numerous metals were available--bonze, silver, gold.] Clay pots are fragile. They break too easily when encountering destructive forces. They don't bend! They break!

Clay vessels were much too common. Poor people drank from clay cups! Poor people ate from clay bowls! To impress people, you did not "set the table with the good clay"--you brought out the metal vessels. What a mess and embarrassment if a clay vessel broke while being used by a guest! Clay was for the kitchen, not for the table!

We have produced a false image in the thinking of American Christians. Too often we see ourselves as the "stainless steel" Christians in a "clay world." We have impeccable congregations with impeccable preachers, impeccable elders, impeccable deacons, impeccable teachers, and impeccable members. We groan and moan when we look at all the clay in society all around us. Yet, we are stainless steel! We are strong--we may bend but we will not break! We stand shiny and bright as we reflect ourselves--beware that our glare does not blind you! We are superior--just look at our accomplishments and origin!

Clay looks at us and says, "We can never be stainless steel." We look at clay and say, "If you are not stainless steel, we cannot relate to you."

Are Christians strong? Yes. Do they shine? Yes. Are they superior? No. They know they are clay. All good or strong in them is from God; the God who can live through Jesus in any clay pot.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Bulletin Article, 16 May 2004

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