Tag Archives: gentleness

A Letter of Comfort to a Mistreated Family

This was an open letter to a family who were miserably treated by a pastor and elders of a church in which they were involved. It was an attempt to encourage them and to help them focus on Christ who never abuses rather than upon men who have abused them.
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Dear Friends, 

I am so sorry you have to go through yet another injury inflicted on your souls, again by those who are supposed to give aid and comfort.  No doubt it is emotionally painful.  All the more so since it comes at a time when you were seeking respite and help for the beatings and bruising you have had to endure for so long.

There really is no excuse for your pastor-in-law (as opposed to your pastor-in-grace) to have avoided you during your trials, neglected you during your absence, and betrayed you during your move.  What’s more, there really is no excuse for the pastor of the church where you had a happy anticipation of joining, to so quickly reject you (assuming by his actions he really did) on the basis of your pastor-in-law’s report.  I can only suspect that a negative report was given about you since the new minister went from a willing and ready spirit to receive you to advising you find another church, all within the space of a day or two.

Certainly, you haven’t been the simple or ideal Christian family who fits the box (whatever that is), who is without any hint of flaws, warts, trials or baggage. You have had far more than the average share.  Perhaps that is why some families don’t have such problems – you apparently got theirs?

Now, lest I come across as yet another self-righteous, judgmental pastor, I can say that I relate to those two ministers.  Looking back in time, I too have avoided, neglected and evidently betrayed people.  The neglect came from trying many times to help, but without any ounce of “success” I gave up.  I admit ignoring a few people who so easily monopolized my life and tried so hard to manipulate me and my family.  Ignoring them was a simple, but sinful way of handling them. I have since learned my lesson.  The ones I have been accused of rejecting or betraying are those to whom I boldly spoke the truth (at least what I believed was truthful) and they took offense.  They’ve never tried to clarify what was said, never forgiven me, and have never been willing to reconcile.  Very sad.

From a pastor’s viewpoint, I understand how easy it is to avoid people who aren’t free from trouble and trials.  I’d rather not deal with other people’s baggage.  I mean, some of them have baggage over the 50-pound limit.  Some of them have lots of heavy bags. Lots and lots of bags. And I have enough of my own baggage.   So, I can relate to wanting a church filled with holy angels who will neatly fit into my image of a perfect, peaceful, problem-free church.

However, the fact of the matter is those of us who are called to minister in the name of Jesus Christ are called to roll up our sleeves and get dirty.  I can recall years ago a pastor, who was a brilliant, earthy, former blue-collar worker, complaining that too many of his fellow pastors never got dirty. No rough hands, tough skin or dirt under their nails.  Of course, he was also speaking metaphorically.  He was right.  But that’s the nature of our work.

We ministers of the Gospel are called to get into the trenches like soldiers (Phil 2:25; 2 Tim. 2:3-4), down and dirty  like farmers (2 Tim. 2:6), tough and smelly like fishermen, sore and exhausted like athletes (1 Cor. 9:24-25; Phil 3:14; 2 Tim. 2:5; 4:7-8; Heb. 12:1), and humiliated and abused like servants (Matt. 20:27; Jn. 10:11, 15; Luke 10:34, 35).Those are biblical descriptions, and they run contrary to contemporary descriptions and models of ministers (CEOs, coaches, university professors.  I’m afraid we have adopted worldly portraits and exchanged them for God’s models all to the detriment and injury of God’s people.

We are called to apply heavenly truth to life’s dirty, earthy issues through the means of the good news of Christ.  As pastors we are called to be gentle (2 Tim. 2:24-26), patient (1 Tim. 3:3), and marked by the fruit of God’s Spirit (Gal. 5:22-24; Eph. 5:9), just like Christ.  Think about him – no doubt he was patient with his stubborn, ignorant, at times belligerent, messed-up disciples.  He was pure and yet patient and gentle with the lowly scum of the world (the prostitutes, beggars, infirm, and handicapped).  He was patient and kind with those who received so much from him but who were so ungrateful.  He was sympathetic and a great help to those in need.

Christ has redeemed, gifted and called us elders and pastors to be servants to God’s people.  Servants filled with the kind of humility that is not always  self-serving or rewarding (Luke 14:10; Rom. 12:1-3, 10, 16:  1 Cor. 10:31-33; Titus 1:7; Jas. 4:10; 1 Pet. 5:5), just like the Servant Jesus (Phil. 2:3).  And just like Jesus we are called, gifted and empowered to practice and model true hospitality (lover of strangers) which goes above and beyond loving our neighbors as ourselves (Rom. 12:13; 1 Tim. 3:2; Titus 1:8, 9; Heb. 13:2; 1 Pet. 4:9).  Our calling is to genuinely love others, especially those of the household of faith (1 Cor. 13; Gal. 5:25; 1 Thess. 2:7-8).  Like it or not we must be gracious, merciful (Matt. 25; 1 Cor. 12:28) and proactively, unquestionably kind (Matt. 11:29; Acts 24:4; 2 Cor. 10:1; 1 Thess. 2:7).  What’s more, God does not give us a choice about who it is with whom we are to be loving, merciful and kind.

Jesus was lowly, meek and gentle.  All believers in Christ should also be lowly, meek and gentle, but particularly ministers.  As brought out in the book, The Perfect Pastor?, “Gentleness, a very important feature in a godly leader, is the quality of being gracious, kind, mild, patient and reasonable.  A gentle person is caring, considerate and has an ability to sympathize (Rom. 15:1; 1 Pet. 4:8).  The gentle one shows carefulness in choosing words and expressions so as not to unnecessarily offend (Gal. 6:1)” (p. 352).

In the book’s Appendix F, which is a self-examination of godly character, the potential deacon, elder, pastor, and other church leaders are encouraged to test themselves.  One of the questions probes whether, “I reflect care, affection and good-will toward others (2 Cor. 10:1; 1 Thess. 2; Eph. 4:2)”  (p. 352).  The implication from the Bible is that must I do so, not only with those who have it all together, or who are apparently absent any challenges or “issues,” or only when I feel like it (which admittedly is rare).  I or we are to reflect care, affection and good-will toward others as gentle leaders – always! Especially toward those who need it the most!

This is the very nature of the redemptive work of Christ.  He came to save sinners, not saints. He came for the infirm, not the healthy; the poor, not the self-sustaining rich; the prodigal, not the pious.  His grace is extended to the chief of sinners, for grace abounds more where sin seems to flourish.  As ministers we must never forget that.  But, dear friends, it appears that some ministers have indeed forgotten just that.

Certainly, when I reflect on what is required of me as a godly man and pastor in character and action, I too fall far short.  Yet, these are the qualities of godliness and ministry this unique calling requires.  If I, or any other person who has taken on the yoke of shepherd ministry, refuses to press toward these high and heavenly goals and refuses to practice them, then we need to step down and step away from the office called the pastorate.  May God daily spare me of my pride and keep me from falling into such pious worldliness.  May the Lord grant to such men the grace of repentance to change and become more like our Master who faithfully served us.

I am so sorry that you have had to endure men in the name of Christ, but do not minister in the spirit of Christ.  Frankly, they have failed you.  Their actions, their sins, mostly of omission, say quite a bit about their character and philosophy of ministry.  But in this sense, be encouraged that God has used this “rejection” of you as a grace to spare you of their miserable orthopraxy, horrible hypocrisy and intolerable misdeeds.

With affection;

Don

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A Real Man is a Gentle Man

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (Matthew 11:29)

No doubt there is much confusion in our society about what a man really is. On the one hand a real man is supposed to be the testosterone-filled, steroid-enhanced, all brawn and little brained brute that is a lean, mean fighting machine. On the other hand, a real man is characterized as the emaciated, emasculated, flaccid and weak male who lives out of his inner woman. To say that a real man is gentle is to conjure up pictures of the latter, never the former. Yet Jesus was and is the embodiment of a real man; and Jesus was gentle. Jesus was neither the brute nor the wimp. In fact, many, if not most, definitions and pictures of Jesus fail to describe him as he truly is described in Scripture. He was and is the real man, and he is gentle.

That might be hard to chomp our mental teeth into because we tend to think of Christ in our image and imaginations. Yet when we consider that Jesus is also the God-Man, Creator of the universe, commander-in-chief of the extraterrestrial beings, a mighty warrior, emperor over all rulers, Savior of mankind, and then think in terms of him being gentle, the exercise is enough to sprain our brains!

What does it mean to be gentle? The idea of gentleness, a very important quality in a Christ-like man, is that of being gracious, kind, considerate, mild, patient, and reasonable. Gentleness, according to what God says, is akin to meekness. To be meek is to be endowed with humility and to have a self-controlled power and strength. God, the Omnipotent One is gentle (2 Sam. 22:36; Psa. 18:35; Isa. 40:11; 42:3; 2 Cor. 10:1), and Christ is meek (Isa. 53:7; Matt. 11:29; 21:5; 26:52). In fact, Jesus Christ is both (2 Cor. 10:1).

If you are in Christ as a true believer, then the real man is being formed in you. That means you are becoming quite the gentle man! The reason for this is that you are learning to think more like God, which makes you wise; and the wisdom God bestows is, among other things, gentle (James 3:17). The other reason for this is that you have God’s Holy Spirit dwelling in you and the fruit of God’s Spirit is gentleness (Gal. 5:23; Phil. 4:5).

What does a Christ-like gentleman look like? First of all, whether you have been blessed with brains or brawn or both, as a real man you will display this essential and important quality. It means that as a gentleman you are caring, considerate and have the ability to sympathize. You are kind, which is not the same as being nice. Niceness is passive, but kindness is active. Kindness actively pursues positive good for others, just like Jesus (Matt. 11:29; Acts 24:4; 1 Thess. 2:7). You reflect care like a nurturing mother (1 Thess. 2:7). Further, you unquestionably demonstrate affection and good will toward others (Eph. 4:2).

Gentleness bears upon the way you communicate and relate with others. You show carefulness in choosing words and expressions so as not to unnecessarily offend (Gal. 6:1). Like Jesus, you reply to humble people with gentleness (1 Pet. 3:15). The quality of gentleness also means you are not abrupt or critical in your communications. You are approachable, and you are firm but diplomatic even when you confront your opponents (Gal. 6:1; 2 Tim. 2:23-25). Therefore, you are not one who is harsh with words. You don’t vengefully lash out when you feel you’ve been hurt, or unjustly treated. Neither do you incite arguments, or alienate people through an attacking manner. You are not inclined to follow through with an angry temper (Prov. 3:30; 15:18; 17:14; 20:3; 25:8; 26:17; Phil. 2:3).

Being gentle allows no room for abuse of any sort; particularly of the physical type. The Bible calls this being pugnacious (1 Tim. 3:3; Ti. 1:7). To be pugnacious is to physically strike or slap someone else, and is often so because that person is a contentious and angry person.

Gentleness is a quality the godly leader is to pursue (1 Tim. 6:11) and to model (1 Tim. 3:3; 2 Tim. 2:24; Ti. 3:2). Yet this characteristic of a real man is not merely for God’s leaders or men. Godly leaders and men are commanded to chase down and capture the gentle spirit (1 Tim. 6:11), but all who name the name of Christ are to wear it in our lives (Col. 3:12), and live life (1 Pet. 3:4) in such a way that it is obvious to all others that we are indeed a gentle people (Phil. 4:5).

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