[Today’s post is written by a guest—one of the deacons in our church.]
Awhile back the men in my small group were discussing the need to be husbands who honor our wives. I don’t remember the context, but I do remember a specific encouragement for men to be deliberate in expressing their love. The overwhelming direction that God gives men is Ephesians 5:25 where we are commanded to love our wives “as Christ loved the Church.” That’s quite a challenge—one that we can never possibly live up to; but we are commanded to do it anyway. No excuses. To not do it is not only disobedience, but to reflect badly upon Christ’s love for us. It’s as though we are telling the world that Christ really only loves us in a hot and cold way, as we do with our wives. So the question is whether our wives know that we love them. How can they know that? Must we always give them everything they want? Not if we are to effectively lead them as we are also commanded. The answer is simple. We need to tell them we love them.
Consider Ephesians 3:19, which tells us that the love of Christ surpasses knowledge. It literally exceeds our ability to understand it. There is never a moment when God is not specifically and deliberately expressing His love for us. If we doubt that love, it is because we are not paying attention. Is this true of our wives? Do they have times when they are genuinely unsure of our love? Perhaps in our legitimate role as leader we have had to say some hard things to them. Sadly, more likely is that we too often aim our sinful attitudes at them. On top of all this one of the characteristics in our wives that generally attracted us to them in the first place is their “weaker,” and more sensitive nature (1 Pet 3:7). We may spend very little time even considering whether or not our wives love us. But, as the more sensitive member of the couple, the wife is subject to greater hurt by our words and actions. So what do they hear more often—the positive or the negative? Are we specifically and deliberately making them aware of our love for them or do we just assume that they know? We give them plenty of reasons to doubt our love. Is it really reasonable to assume that they don’t? We have to make sure that they know they are loved.
Love Your Pastor Too. We should also look at our pastors in a similar way. While I can find no specific command to love our pastors, Jesus commanded us to love one another just as He loved us. Again, what a standard to live up to! How could we possibly exclude our pastors from this “one another” command? While not exactly the same, 1 Timothy 5:17 tells us that our pastors are worthy of “double honor.” So how are we doing with this? As a whole, it appears churches are not doing well. In a recent survey a majority of pastors indicated that they often feel over-worked, depressed, and discouraged. An amazing 80% felt under-appreciated by the people of their church. How can this be so in the face of the commands of the Bible? Within the same survey we find what must be at least part of the answer: 40% of the pastors surveyed indicated a serious dispute with someone within the church at least once a month.
We also should be constantly vigilant as our pastors teach us. Paul commended the people of Berea for going home after a sermon and searching the Scriptures to see if what they had been taught was true (Acts 17:11). So we are not only allowed, but expected to hold our pastors to a Scriptural standard. This is a help to them. Some of this 40% may be due to consistently wandering from the Bible. But it seems unlikely that the entire 40% is explained by this, or whatever lower rate the remaining 60% are facing. It seems obvious to me that we are way too comfortable criticizing our pastors just as we are our wives. Even more importantly, just as we do with our wives, we fail to express our appreciation to our pastors. If we don’t like something they say or do, we tell them so. If we like something they say or do, we tell someone else. Since they are so much more mature than us they don’t really have need of our appreciation do they?Besides, we don’t want them to lose their humility do we? While we have no desire to inflate the pride of anyone, Paul tells us to encourage one another, especially the “faint-hearted” (1 Thess 5:11-14).
Also consider that one of the characteristics that we desire in our pastors is sensitivity. We want them to be aware and concerned about our problems. But we forget that this same sensitivity causes them to retain some of the harm caused by constantly dealing with us, their flock. A good pastor will grieve over our hurts and mourn when we wander into sin. Now multiply that by the entire congregation. It is like a doctor who works in a communicable disease ward. Should we really be surprised when he gets sick?
So, just as with our wives, what are our pastors hearing from us? A steady stream of criticism, or do they mostly hear positive, encouraging words? Remember that 1 Timothy 5:17 calls for “double honor,” especially if they excel at preaching and teaching. What excuse do we have for failing to make sure that our pastors know that we appreciate them? As with our wives, the solution is simple: Just say it!
And tomorrow, the Lord’s Day, would be a good time to start.