Correct, Rebuke and Encourage

Dear Church,

It pains and sickens me to post this photo, but this is where we find our nation at this moment. The worst part of Wednesday, in my opinion, was all the people carrying Jesus signs and crosses and dragging Jesus’ name into this display of hatred and evil.

Last Wednesday morning, I headed north to Covenant Pines for two nights seeking solitude and no distractions to work on my dissertation (I’m in the home stretch!). We all know what ended up absorbing my attention. I alternated between writing sections of my thesis and checking the news and addressing the unraveling of our nation before our eyes.

We need to come “together” and process this moment as a church family, to seek Jesus together in prayer and repentance, to lament and learn how we got here, and how to move forward as followers of the Prince of Peace.

From my lakeside cabin I offered both a Call to Prayer & Repentance for the Soul of Our Nation and a strong pastoral challenge with my Trumpism and the Failure of Discipleship. I know not everyone will agree and some may be offended. If you know me, then you know I find no pleasure in being controversial or divisive. But these extraordinary times call for biblical leadership, prophetic preaching, and sober Jesus-shaped perspective to help guide God’s people through the fog and fury of all the other conflicting messages, narratives, and truth claims in the air.

As you may know, this event unfolded on the Feast of Epiphany. As it happens, this day recounts the story of a desperate tyrant plotting and clinging to power. See my Herod’s Tyranny & the Wise Way Out.

Those God has charged with teaching and leading the church must not stand by silently while many of our people are “tossed and blown about by every wind” of political punditry, and while “people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth” (Eph. 4:14). “Instead, we will speak the truth in love” because facing hard truths is needed for us to “grow in every way more and more like Christ” (Eph 4:15). (Speaking the truth in love is what Sen. Mitt Romney urged in this stirring 4-min speech in the senate that day.)

One of the hardest balancing acts for me as a pastor is trying to wear simultaneously the prophetic hat (speaking hard biblical truths that may offend) and the soft and fuzzy hat of the warm shepherd (unifying & comforting the sheep). Beloved, please test everything I say in light of Scripture, and hold fast to that which is good (1 Thes 5:21). I take my calling and ordination vows seriously, and I try to lead as one under authority, who will be held accountable for the words I speak as well as the times I remained silent out of fear.

I have been chastened by God this week by the charge given to pastors in 2 Tim 4:1, and my words of challenge and rebuke this week were in obedience to the next three verses (note the urgency and judgment of God hanging over these verses). Pastors and their people both do well to consider these words. Here’s my paraphrase with commentary in parentheses:

“In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give [pastors] this charge: Preach the word (of the gospel of Jesus’ Kingdom, i.e.,his alternative politic); be prepared when times are favorable and when you’ll likely stir up a hornet’s nest; CORRECT, REBUKE and ENCOURAGE —with great patience (I’ve held my tongue on Facebook for 4 long years, to my credit or shame) and careful instruction (‘impulsive comments’ and ‘passing along conspiracies’ is the opposite of sitting under ‘careful instruction’ from God’s Word). For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome discourse. They will be driven by emotion rather than reason and will look for tweets and pundits and fringe news outlets who will keep repeating whatever their itching ears want to hear. They will reject the truth (and no amount of evidence will persuade them!) and chase after conspiracy theories” (2 Tim 4:1-4 my paraphrase).

Pastors and disciples alike would prefer to practice just 33% of this sacred trifecta. “Encourage us Pastor, but please don’t correct or rebuke us.” I’m convinced you’re not a faithful pastor if you never rebuke or correct anyone; and we’re not faithful Christians if we don’t welcome correction from our brothers and sisters in Christ. “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful” (Prov 27:6).

I shared something on Facebook this week that I think boils down our most basic calling in these confusing and contentious times:

The “truth” has always been a slippery thing, easily manipulated, easily spun, easily misplaced or lost in the couch cushions of public discourse. That’s why God, in His infinite wisdom, eventually decided to send Truth in human flesh. Christians therefore don’t need to sort out every confusing issue, accumulate academic degrees, or prove every spurious conspiracy theory right or wrong. We simply need to get to know Jesus by spending time with him in the four Gospels, and to then make sure our actions, words, and values reflect his. Truth is a person. Defend Him. Love Him. Propagate Him. That’s your highest calling, Christian.”

Let’s stay in it together, church!

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