The Pastors Workshop
Are You Pure, Upright, and Blameless?
I don't know any honest, self-aware pastor today who could say without qualification, "My conduct was always pure, upright, and blameless." But, I do know many pastors who seek to live consistently as people of integrity, people whose actions reflect the calling of God. I have served alongside pastors whose behavior, both in the workplace and in their private lives, demonstrated the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit.
We pastors often stumble when weighed down by the stack of expectations laid upon us. We're to be great preachers, visionary leaders, and compassionate caregivers. We have elaborate job descriptions that spell out all of the ways we are to excel. But 1 Thessalonians 2:10 reminds us that some of the most essential pastoral obligations are of a different sort altogether. They have to do with how we live each day, how we relate to God, how we treat others, how we are viewed by our neighbors. They relate to what we do in secret, to that which will rarely be known to anyone other than the Lord.
1 Thessalonians 2:10 encourages us to take stock of our whole lives, not just our professional activities, but also our personal lives as well. For example, I need to stop and ask myself:
Am I living purely? Is God, who sees everything, honored in all that I think and do? I my relationship with God vital and growing?
Am I living rightly in relationship with others? Am I faithful to my wife, not just by avoiding adultery, but also by loving her sacrificially as Christ loved the church? Am I giving my children some of the best of me or do they get the leftovers? How are my relationships with my staff? My lay leaders? My neighbors? Are there broken relationships that I need to seek to mend? Are there people I still need to forgive?
Am I living blamelessly? Am I acting in such a way that people in my community would think well of the Lord because of me? Am I showing the love of Christ to the people I meet each day in the market or my local coffee bar? Am I avoiding activity that might bring dishonor to the church? Is my sexual life in line with Scripture? Am I paying all of the income taxes I should pay? Am I free from debilitating addictions?
Let me emphasize that none of us is perfect. We all make mistakes. Yet, we mustn't let this fact allow us to escape our calling, as leaders in the church, to live exemplary lives, to be people who earn and deserve the trust given to us.
If we know that we are consistently falling short of God's standard in a certain area, then we should not hesitate to get help. This begins with admitting to ourselves and to the Lord where we are failing. It includes honest confession and genuine repentance. It usually means getting help from a brother or sister in Christ, or perhaps a small group of fellow pastors, who can encourage us and hold us accountable. Sometimes, such as in the case of certain kinds of addictions or marital difficulties, it means seeking professional help.
In sum, yes, we should seek to excel in the duties spelled out in our job descriptions. But, even more, we should seek to live each day in a way that is pure, upright, and blameless. No that's a challenge if I ever heard one!
Mark D. Roberts is Senior Director and Scholar-in-Residence for Laity Lodge, a retreat and renewal ministry in Texas. He blogs at Patheos and writes daily devotionals at www.thehighcalling.org, and he can also be followed through Twitter and Facebook.