Treasures in Clay Jars

I’m getting a sermon ready on Samson. I learned about Samson as a child. At that time he was a hero!

It has been eye opening to consider him again as an adult, and a leader in the church. How quickly he discredited himself. After his failed marriage to the Philistine girl, he took up with prostitutes. He was violent. Early on he broke his Nazirite vow – a key part of his calling.

The book of Judges was drawn into the Hebrew Scriptures after the exile. We can see how the leaders of Israel wanted to show the deterioration of leadership, when Israel “did what was right in their own eyes.” Samson fits – as the last judge, his personal failure to be a good leader is a symbol of Israel’s failure to follow God.

Samson was no hero – yet Yahweh used him.

I think of some of the issues facing ICOMB right now – primarily at national church but also some local church situations. The people we think are heroes sometimes are not. The people we think God cannot use – he still uses!

But we also know much more than the people of Samson’s day – now 3000 years ago. The life and teachings of Jesus and the apostles instruct us about leadership and the way of the Church. The post-apostolic church of 2nd to 4th centuries also are a gold mine of information as the church developed.

Today we ask much more of our leaders: passionate spirituality; Christian ethic; integrity on many fronts (money, family, sex, etc.); and appropriate use of power.

When leaders fail, they must leave their post and invest time and work into recapturing their spiritual and personal integrity. This is struggle – a term carefully used by early Church Fathers. It takes time to rebuild trust. Corrected action over a period of time eventually signals to the flock and to loved ones that the leader has indeed taken a new path.

Samson is a metaphor for failure – when his hair was cut, he not only lost his strength and his eyes, but he lost face and any respect that might have been left. However, in his imprisonment, his hair grew back and he got one more moment of strength, symbolizing the potential recovery of God’s people, and even a leader.

This applies to the church today. A fallen leader may get one last act of “triumph” or of reinstatement. It probably won’t be a hero’s end. But it is a testimony of God’s willingness to use the flawed and wasted for his purposes and ultimately for his glory. Glory to God!