Tuesday, February 16, 2010
The demands of love and the pastor's calling
To be a pastor is to be entrusted with a profoundly humbling office and task. You are to be a faithful undershepherd of that Great Shepherd of the sheep whom God brought back from the dead (Heb. 13:20). It is an inestimable privilege to feed, nurture, and care for those for whom the Good Shepherd died (John 10:11; Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 5:2-4) and to do that in a local setting where your life and theirs is bound together by mutual prayer, fellowship, love, witness, and suffering.
The fact that this is a task conferred not only by the body of elders and the consent of the congregation, but by the Holy Spirit (Acts 20:28), is at turns, a deep source of joyful encouragement and a reality that provokes sober minded gratitude.
What is set before you in your work could best be described as the demands of love. There must be a growing deepening love toward Jesus Christ out of which flows a gracious, patient, thoughtful love for his sheep (John 21).
These dimensions of love, toward the Lord in heaven and his people on earth in the local church, cannot remain strong, sincere and refreshed without that knowledge of the love of God toward us in Christ. And it is Christ crucified and raised, Christ clothed in the promises of his gospel, who must be the object of faith, and the source of our ongoing spiritual happiness.
The resources for the work are in him. Or perhaps it would be better to say that all the grace that we need for spiritual life and communion with God comes to us in union with Jesus Christ and is applied to us by his Spirit.
The demands of this love then, in the pastor's calling, must be constantly replenished and supplied by the outpouring of that love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit as he enables us to see by faith God's love demonstrated for us at the cross (Romans 5:5, 8). If we do not drink from this stream again and again all our labour in the gospel will be weakened. It is the love of Christ that is to compel us (2 Cor. 5:14).
One aspect of the demands of love is the guarding of the sheep from the danger of error. Heresy has a siren's voice and the devil uses its sweet sound to lure the Church away from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. A false Christ, who can never be the proper object of our affections, can never make the new Eve fruitful in the world (2 Cor. 11:2-4). That is why heresy is destructive, it cannot produce spiritual fruit, there is no power in it to bring a new creation.
Pastors, elders, the demands of love require you to protect the Church from heresies, even when people will call you unloving for criticizing the views of others. To do so, in our age, may well be called unloving, for our age has confused tolerance with love, but the insult is ill judged.
Protecting the Church from error is a loving act, and, therefore, it must be done with the appropriate affections. We are not to love a fight, we are to fight because we are motivated by love.