Sunday, August 31, 2008

Nice and Chicken

Should a pastor be judgmental? You'd think not, perhaps, but perhaps that's because we're Lutherans from Minnesota.

Many years ago I fell into a terrible pattern of life. I made bad decisions because I was not willing to submit to God's Word. I suffered because of what I did, but I stayed in the bad situation until things really began to fall apart.

The one who brought the toughest blow to me was a pastor. He helped me face the reality of my life. He was very judgmental at that moment, and I hated him for it.

I hated him then, for a very short time. But I realized somehow that what he said was true. Eventually I was broken enough to make changes and to allow my life to be changed. Now I am thankful.

No matter how long I live, and no matter how long I've been a Christ follower and a pastor, I still need people to correct me and hold me accountable. But, I believe that there are times when I am required, by my call from God, as a pastor, to speak truth (as I see it) to someone who may not want to hear it, truth that may be needed to break a hard heart.

See the example in Ezekiel 33:7-11.

The problem is, sometimes I'm too "nice." Or maybe just chicken. Or I doubt myself too long. I know there are times when I don't do as the gospel for September 7 says soon enough.

In this passage from Matthew 18, Jesus teaches that when someone* does a Christ-follower wrong, that man or woman ought to go to the one who he or she thinks has sinned against him or her and "point out the fault" in private, with just you and that other person there.

The purpose of this is so the person can admit their fault and the friendship can be healed. Sometimes, of course, you learn it's a misunderstanding or that there are two sides to the issue. Sometimes the one who brings the problem in the first place needs to apologize as well. Sometimes the process continues with other people getting involved. Sometimes it get hard.

But the point is that we ought not wait too long. When we do, problems swell like infected wounds.

We ought to be able to go to our pastors and elders like that, to point out their faults and hold them accountable. But, yes, I believe there are times when pastors, in view of their office, needs to speak words that are hard to hear. Words that sound judgmental to us.

I'm glad that pastor spoke out back in 1980. I'm glad he didn't wait any longer than he did. Can we allow our spiritual leaders to speak hard truth to us?

*actually, this applies only when the two people share the same value system, that is, they both acknowledge the same Lord and are "brothers" (or "sisters") in Christ.

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