Sometimes all I can do is shake my head in disbelief. You would think that after 72 years surprises would be few and far between, but that’s not the case. Just about the time I think I’ve seen it all, along comes another surprise. I expect that from the world, but my biggest surprises and greatest disappointments come for professing Christians. And, believe me, very few would want me to give examples!
It’s evident that no amount of teaching, begging and pleading will change some folks. They repeated disobey commands, cast aside wise counsel, deny request, ignore warnings, disappoint others, and do as they please. I’m often tempted to say,”Have you lost your cotton-picking mind?” It sure seems that way! What they do wouldn’t be quiet so bad if it just reflected on them, but it also affects the cause of Christ and hinders our efforts to reach the lost.
As a young preacher I tried to control everything, but I soon learned that it did more harm than good. Sometimes you just have to tolerate stupid, disrespectful people. Yeah, I know the word “stupid” is harsh and strong language, but I don’t know of any other way to describe what some people do. It is actually worse than stupid.
It is sad that we live in a day when the prevailing attitude is “Anything goes”, and everything is acceptable. You can’t tell one bit of difference between the world and most professing Christians, other than what they claim to believe—their behavior is exactly the same. I realize that we are saved “through faith”, “not of works”, but saving faith is accompanied by good works (James 2:17-20). If what you believe doesn’t change the way you behave it isn’t saving faith. Although none of us are perfect, true Christians will be different (2 Cor. 5:17).
I understand that pastors must sometimes speak out against certain things and even demand certain things, but some things, as wrong as they are, aren’t worth making a fuss over (of course everyone would have their own list). I can rant and rave about some things that are wrong so much that I lose the attention of the people I’m trying to reach for Christ. Still it is hard to not address certain things. It is difficult to refrain when you know something is wrong, and when you are being disrespected, and you know there are people wondering why you don’t do something about it, but, in my opinion, sometimes it just has to be done.
I must confess, sometimes I wonder if my action is the best course of action. Maybe I have become the compromiser that I never wanted to be. Maybe I’m getting too old and too weary fighting battles that I know I can’t win. I’ve even thought maybe it’s time to retire, although I said I never would, if I’m going to just let everything go instead of making certain demands. But I’ve seen the results of trying to run “a tight ship” and dictate to others, and it’s an ugly picture. I have concluded that I can’t control or change people. If they want to act stupid and make a fool out of themselves so be it. I pray that God will help them see the light and do what’s right. I sure can’t do it.
The great difficulty for me, and every other pastor, is to know where to draw the line. I admit that I’m not smart enough to always know where it ought to be. And I’ve noticed that those who would offer suggestions always put the line in a place so as to not include themselves. In other words, they want the pastor to deal with everyone’s sin but their own. That hardly seems fair to me. But, what do you do? Regardless of what I do some will think I am too strict and some will think I am too lenient. And you can count me in that group who question my decisions. Sometimes I’m just as confused as you are. I can only say that if I’m going to error I want it to be on the side love. I want to stand for the truth without being dictatorial and I need you prayers as to where that fine line is.
Please don’t misunderstand. I am not discouraged. I am not going to resign. I have no plans to ever retire, so long as I am able to carry on. I’ve simply tried to be brutally honest about what I see, the way I feel, and what we need to do. I am sick and tired of talking about “fine lines”, “grey areas”, and questionable things. We should all get beyond that and live in such a way so as to not leave any room for doubt. If you want to make a fool of yourself I can’t stop you, but please consider the harm you do to the cause of Christ. It is shocking that you would call yourself a Christian and not be concerned about that. Think about it!