Wednesday, December 8, 2010

A Bit of Advice for Pastors (and Anyone)

This morning I would like to direct people to perhaps the best book ever written on Pastoral Practice - Ignatius' Letter to Polycarp Polycarp was a young bishop, Ignatius an old one on the way to martyrdom - and Ignatius instructs him. Read the whole thing. However, just a quick comment on a line or two.

First, "Bear with all, even as the Lord does with you."

This is a brilliant piece of advice - not only to pastors, but to all. Bear with all - not because if you do so you will be such a good person, not because you HAVE to - but simply because of this. You understand that the Lord has shown you much patience and mercy.

Everything in the Church flows from the Gospel - it is from our understanding that we too are sinners who have be forgiven much that we approach people. That is how we can approach them in mercy. The same mercy that I have received, let me be an instrument in showing it. The same love and forgiveness that I have received, let me be an instrument in proclaiming it.

Second, "Stand firm, as does an anvil which is beaten. It is the part of a noble athlete to be wounded, and yet to conquer. And especially, we ought to bear all things for the sake of God, that He also may bear with us"

I prefer the translation "It is the mark of a great athlete to be bruised yet still conquer". However, this gets to the point. In your life - be you a Pastor or a laymen, you will be bruised, battered, insulted, mocked, and will have people unleash all sorts of ire against you.

In this - be as an anvil. Bear the strikes without striking back. Show love, show mercy. And do not think that the rants that people launch at you are a sign of your failure. If you proclaim the Gospel, if you put the focus upon Christ, it will happen. Do not let the focus become your feelings, your wounds, your desire to strike back as you have been struck -- you aren't a sword to lash back and cause wounds to those who would strike you. You are an anvil. People will be struck against you - stand firm that they might be shaped into useful tools for the kingdom of God.

It's a great read - I highly recommend it.


Bror Erickson said...

Brilliant sage advice. I am often at a loss for this. I don't know that I have always been the best at bearing with all. Though there have been times when I have found it necessary in defending my flock to dispense with those who were not attacking me as much as they were ravaging the sheep. Which may be something to keep in mind also.
Yet, I'm always drawn to this verse:Hebrews 5:1-2 (ESV)
For every high priest chosen from among men is appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. [2] He can deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is beset with weakness.

or as Ignatius says, bear with all. God has forgiven you more than you will ever have to forgive anyone in your entire life.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

On this I will often ponder the Samurai of Japan. We are familiar with the term "Bushido" - the Way of the Warrior. We do not often know the rest of that line - The Way of the Warrior... is to die.

That is the heart of bushido, of the samurai ideal - that at any moment a warrior must be prepared to suffer, to die, in order to fulfill his duty to his feudal lord.

This is a kingdom of the left thing with the Samurai - but you know, it sounds an awful lot like the Christian life as well. Except our Lord has called us not to suffer in order that our enemies might be vanquished, but to suffer for the sake of our enemies, to love them, to pray for them even as they persecute us.

Our flesh hates this - but that is what it means when one takes up the full armor of God. So put that in your pipe and smoke it next time you sing "Onward Christian Soldiers"

The way of the Christian is to die to all sinful desires along with Christ, and to arise and show forth love to the unlovable and undeserving.

I don't like doing that - oh wretch that I am, who will save me from this body of death? Christ Jesus the Lord, who with might that I did not have won my freedom when I was yet His enemy.