Ephesians 2:4-10 (NKJV) 4 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
Believe it or not, Pastors are saved by God’s grace, just like everyone else in the family of God. As a child I remember hearing some of the adults in my church criticizing our pastor and I made a mental note that being a clergyman would be a profession that I would avoid. Somewhere on my journey the “call” of God on my life was stronger than the mindset to pursue another career, and so I entered the ranks of the clergy.
During my time serving as a pastor I have had avid supporters, who believe I’m the best pastor in the world; and critics, who are convinced that I’m probably the worst. Well…I’m not on either end of the spectrum. Neither amazing nor awful. Let me tell you who I am, I’m a sinner saved by grace; flawed but called; gifted, with limitations; excellent in some aspects of ministry and lacking in other areas. I would describe myself as a normal human. And like all humans, I am looking to Jesus the author and the finisher of my faith to cover my sin and weaknesses with forgiveness and grace.
I don’t expect to be universally loved nor respected by everyone…not even all of those who are under my leadership as a pastor. Truth is, I’m an easy target, because my flaws are obvious for all to see. So, what is the point that I am trying to make? Simply this: We are all striving towards perfection as Christ works in and through us; however, none of us will reach the point of spiritual, moral, behavioral perfection until we have completely died to our flesh. (I’m talking about dead and buried six feet under) In the meantime, God calls us to treat one another with forbearance and grace; just as Christ has loved us.
We are called to work through our issues with each other, without backbiting or gossip. We are called to love (Agape) one another with a love that never fails or gives up. We are called to encourage and acknowledge the best in one another while we lovingly hold each other accountable. This calls us (stronger yet) demands that we look at ourselves in the accuracy of God’s mirror; where we remove the log in our own eye, before we deal with the weaknesses of others. (This is not an easy thing to do!)
Thinking back on the Pastor who led our small church in Idaho… Most of the criticism aimed at the pastor was accurate; but not deserved. What do I remember the most about “my” pastor? He was a man of prayer. A man of moral and spiritual integrity. A man who was appointed by God to lead us. I could point out his weaknesses…but, I would always rather join God in extending grace than side with the accuser of the brethren. If you are reading this, do not think that this is “my” way of defending myself; I have no reason to defend myself when I am a beloved Son of God. I am aware that Jesus still has a lot of work to do in my life, and constructive criticism is welcome and helpful! Once again let me state: just like everyone else in the Kingdom of God, I am saved by grace…
Author's Note: I love people and I do not always reach out. I have insight on the work that needs to be done and often procrastinate. I am a strange mix of hard work and sloth. In a word, I am "human." I do find it strange that we are so quick to pull the trigger when judging others, because, we are all so flawed and in dire need of a Savior. If there is an area of wisdom that has grown as I have aged in years, it is my awareness of my own weaknesses and less of a willingness to be critical of others. Not only do I need God's grace, I need to extend His grace to others. RJ