Sunday, April 19, 2009

Image or abiding?

I meet weekly with two friends who are also pastors, and recently one if them mentioned that he struggled with whether he was "worthy" to be called a pastor. He still struggles with how to best love his daughter (a high school senior), wrestling between trying to give good direction in her life and feeling like he is being controlling. He knows that he still has sin in his life. And aren't we pastors called to something greater than the "average" Christian, since we are professionals and all?

My first response was yes, by all means we are called to a different standard. James 3:1 came to mind, which says that Christians should not presume to be teachers (desire to be teachers), because those of us who teach will be judged more strictly. I also remembered the qualifications for elders and deacons in Titus. But I stopped in mid-sentence. I was beginning to encourage my friends (and myself) to aim at a standard, rather than to depend on Christ. In a sense I was saying that we needed to be seen as being above reproach. We had to do all the right things because people were watching and we have a responsibility to them to be impeccable. And in doing so, the goal becomes our appearance, how we are seen and perceived. We begin to overwork because a "good pastor" always helps all people all the time. We begin to treat people kindly not because we love them but because it is what we are supposed to do. And slowly we begin to live by a list of do's and don'ts, and then we begin to call others to live the same way in their walk with Christ.

But we pastors, like all Christians, are called to live by the Spirit, to abide in Christ. Even though our "list" may say to help, the Spirit may say, "Don't bail this person out now, even if they think it's your Christian duty." The Spirit may say, "Take this hour to pray with me, and don't let the urgent need at the door interrupt." If I am abiding in Christ, I will love my wife and family as Titus 1:6-9 instructs. I will be self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined because Christ in me is all of these things. And I will not be able to take the credit, because it is Christ in me who is and does these things.

It's tempting for my friends and I to make a list and then meet each week and hold each other accountable to how we're doing in keeping it; in fact that would be easier in some ways. But Christ has freed us from that way of living. As we live by His Spirit, we will lead those under our care not to ourselves or our own example, but to the life that is truly Life, Jesus Christ.

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