There was a moment in my life when I had to bury a part of myself.
It happened when a group of godly men laid their hands on me and commissioned me to gospel work. From that moment on, I was ordained to a new task. I was now obliged to be a Word-man. The Bible is clear:
- “I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus … preach the word” (2 Timothy 4:1a, 2a).
- “Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you” (1 Timothy 4:13-14).
- 1 Peter 5 reminded me that I was but an under-shepherd, pointing people to the Chief Shephard.
My task was to preach the whole counsel of God’s Word (Acts 20:24-27) and to serve the Chief Shepherd by reflecting him as best I could to whomever God entrusted to my care.
And if this was my task, it required a part of me to die…
…because I was chained to the Bible, tethered to Christ.
If I was to offend, it should only be the offence of the gospel.
If I was to be loved, it should only be for the message I hold out.
If I was to be known, it should only be for the God I rep.
“No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him” (2 Timothy 2:4).
I was enlisted. So the range of my pursuits had to narrow.
As the Apostle Paul expressed it, “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified…. so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” (1 Corinthians 2:2, 5).
Or as John the Baptist expressed, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30).
Like many men who become pastors, I am a man of strong conviction (I think I’m actually worse off in this regard than most pastors). I have strongly held convictions about things as little as kitchen knives and toilet paper.
But now this young man who had previously served on a political campaign couldn’t tell others his preferred candidate or political affiliation! Now this young man who had a hot take on every news story had to start talking less about the news and even more about the Good News!
And it was hard. It is hard; perhaps these days more than ever.
I have strong views about COVID that few outside my family know.
I have thought long and hard about BLM, but I’m careful to only say as much as the Bible clearly says.
I’ve had to bite my tongue regarding the US Presidential elections. My opinion about guns is not something I share. When it comes to preferred fiscal policy, I keep my cards close to my chest.
And it’s no small task. I enjoy the scrum. I’m energized by it; it’s how I learn. Moreover, part of me yearns to have a hand in shaping the discourse on these and a host of other matters.
But that part of me had to die.
I’m not just an ordinary citizen. I’m enlisted. I’m a pastor. I’m a Word-man, and under-shepherd of Christ.
Don’t get me wrong. The Bible lays out key principles for how we think about all of life, including issues like COVID or BLM. But those principles don’t play to only one side – they almost always cut both ways. In a sense, the Bible remains non-partisan so that it can critique and correct from outside the system. And therefore, that’s where I need to stand. My comments must be chained to the Scriptures, saying no more and no less than what the Scriptures state on any given issue.
So even as I sound out what I believe are the key biblical principles that should be guiding us, I’m holding back dozens of other thoughts and opinions that I wish I could share. It’s the part of me I had to bury.
Whether you vote NDP or Conservative shouldn’t determine whether you resonate with me. Whether you homeschool or not shouldn’t determine how much you trust my preaching. All of that should be laid aside. But if you need to hear from God, then – by God’s grace – I hope that I can be of service to you (as best as I can as a mortal).
I’m certainly not saying I’ve done it perfectly. Perhaps I’m sometimes too cautious about teasing out an obvious implication of a biblical principle. More likely, sometimes I tease it out just a bit further than I should have. I’m only saying that, as a pastor, I am not free to be wholly myself. I belong to the one who enlisted me.
And as right and good as that is, it is still a death I grieve.