Pastoral Courage

Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we received mercy, we do not lose heart, but we have renounced the things hidden because of shame, not walking in craftiness or adulterating the word of God, but by the manifestation of truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.
(2 Corinthians 4.1-2)

Pastors make enemies. Some make more than others, I make more than most, but all stand opposite someone. It’s not intentional, but it is inevitable if one is striving in a ministry of the Spirit (cf. 2 Cor 3.8, the antecedent to ‘this ministry’ in 2 Cor 4.1).

Indifference is not a healthy mark of the pastoral office. You are either loved or hated. Paul would say you either smell sweetly or stink (2 Cor 2.15-16). So make sure you are emitting some aroma! But, being loved is often harder than being hated. Being hated bows the back and clouds the blue skies of grace. But, being loved swells the heart, fertilizing haughty seeds Adam buried in our soul. This proves to be a daunting profession, not suitable to the proud of heart.

Paul had enemies (2 Cor 4.11). Ironically, his fiercest enemies came from within the church. Yet, Paul and team did not lose heart or become discouraged. They understood their ministry as a gift of God’s mercy. They were not there to prove themselves to the Corinthian church (2 Cor 3.1-5). They had no axe to grind or egos to protect. They were given the ministry as a free expression of God’s grace. Therefore, they had nothing to lose because the ministry was ‘on loan’ in the first place.

Their task was to stay out of the shadows. They were not to match craftiness with the Corinthians. Rather, they were to toe the line in broad daylight, holding themselves out ‘to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.’ They were to open themselves up to public scrutiny and believe righteousness triumphs over shenanigans. They were to make God’s word plain (‘manifest the truth’) in word and deed, and trust God to draw the lines. They would be hated by those blinded to the gospel and loved by those enlightened by the gospel (2 Cor 4.3-6).

I too easily strive not to be hated. Apologizing too quickly for God’s word, I fight to open the shades that God intends to keep closed. I too easily strive to be loved. Tip-toeing around souls, I often treat ministry like Valentine’s Day.

Oh, for the courage of Paul! Preach, model and enforce the truth of God and call every man to graceful submission. God’s people will rally. God’s enemies will revolt. And when the dust settles, the Spirit will have won the day.

Dear church, pray that your pastors have a good conscience before God and men (Heb 13.17-18). That is for your good, according to Heb 13.17! Make sure you have no reason to be embarrassed of them. Keep them from punching below the belt. Hold them accountable to public scrutiny so that they will lead the charge with God’s truth. Don’t let them sheathe their sword in the face of danger, but hold up their arms with all vigor. Don’t dare let them lose heart, or hearts will be lost. “For all things are for your sakes, so that the grace which is spreading to more and more people may cause the giving of thanks to abound to the glory of God” (2 Cor 4.15).

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