March 23, 2012
One of the emotional burdens of being a pastor is that you know everything that everyone is struggling with. This information comes of course in confidence. Then what is really frustrating is to hear people spreading gossip that you know to be false. It happens more than might be suspected. Of course when people feel it is their calling to be constantly talking and never listening, they are bound to get some facts wrong. I watch people hurt one another over and over, and I wonder how much is unintentional and how much is purposeful.
My prayer is that I can set a better example. I think sometimes though just not participating in the hurtful action is not enough. I need to have more courage to intervene, advise, and counsel so that the pattern of hurtful words, whether intentional or thoughtless is curbed. Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Martin Luther King (among other notable Christians) both noted that not participating in evil is not enough. To truly act out our faith we must speak when we see evil and sinfulness. We must do everything in our power to stop that evil before it spreads and causes harm to those who are innocent.
This takes an incredible amount of courage. It takes grace to speak with love when we see those around us causing pain and suffering. As Christians we are called to not just be above the fray. We are called to be a voice for the innocents, the victims, the suffering. God will be with us though, even when we are doing that which we most fear. As people in community one of our primary responsibilities is to keep the community healthy. Paul spent so much of his time helping churches to get through difficult times of internal struggle because every community needs help. Just as we never reach perfection as individuals, our communities made up of human individuals never reach perfection either. We can approach it, but we always have room for improvement.
Speaking the truth in love is one of the greatest challenges God sets before us. When we are told to love our neighbor, that includes loving them enough to say that which is true. We all need guidance, and when we live in fear of upsetting the cart or hurting feelings we shirk our responsibility. People ache to hear the truth. They may not know it, but when Christ is present it can be helpful and healing. Let’s step into new relationship, honest and loving.