Thursday, March 14, 2013

Pastor, was that aimed at me?!

Occasionally, a pastor preaches a sermon or makes a comment that hits close to the bone.  He speaks so vividly or pointedly about your fears, sins, or worries that you might think he knows your secrets.  You might even feel that the pastor is taking a shot at you. 

Well, yes, that may happen.  Not that the pastor is betraying a confidence or revealing a confession.  That is strictly forbidden.  The pastor has no right to divulge what is said in confidence.  The confessional is no place to gather fodder for sermons.

On the other hand, a pastor also cannot simply avoid topics because they are touchy.  If your daughter is living with a man outside of marriage (or pick a sin, it really doesn't matter which) and the pastor condemns that, he is not saying it just because he wants to pick a fight with you.  The pastor may not even be aware of what is going on.  The pastor is simply proclaiming God's will.  If you or your loved one are violating God's will, the pastor must show you.  You may not like it.  You may not like him for saying so.  Too bad. 

The pastor stands in the stead of Christ.  He is to speak for Christ, regardless of the consequences.  If the pastor, as he speaks for Christ, makes you angry, it is because you don't want to repent.  That is the hard truth.  Even though you might want to excuse it or deny it or lash out against it, it is the truth.  The pastor is obligated to proclaim the truth, even when it is hard.

Ultimately, the pastor's job is to lead you to Jesus Christ for forgiveness, comfort, and salvation.  But there can be no forgiveness or salvation when people cling to their sins.  The pastor can neither aid nor abett the enemy by bringing him comfort.  The pastor proclaims God's word so that you will see Satan's lies, especially when you are ensnared in them.  If you would rather embrace the lie than God's truth, then the pastor must note that you have allied yourself with the enemy.  He must tell you so.  He must tell you that you have made yourself the enemy of Jesus.  He cannot comfort you, forgive you, or suggest that there is salvation for you.

If you are ashamed of your sin, overwhelmed with guilt, or fearful of your place before God, do not avoid your pastor.  While his words may have sounded harsh, that served so that you would finally be terrified at God's wrath and to despise yourself for your sin.  That is a sign of repentance.  And the Lord is most merciful to the penitent.

No matter how bad you think your sins are and no matter how deep your shame runs, the grace of God is greater and the mercy of God runs deeper.  The pastor will tell you that the blood of Jesus purifies you of all sin.  He stands in the stead of Christ.  Through him, you will hear the words of God.  In Private Confession and Absolution, you will hear the words of Christ, "I forgive you."  At the communion railing, you will hear, "For you."  And yes, that is aimed at you.

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