Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning. I am glad to be able to resume my writing mode for my homework. It is hard to focus your mind on a subject matter, when you are preoccupied by many different chores at home and at work, while your body was also adjusting to another time zone. By God’s grace, my mind is getting back to normal operation. Peterson’s devotional thought on the word “pastor” caught my attention. But it does not necessarily apply to clergy only. The spirit of his sharing could be applied to evaluate all kinds of role and identity in our culture today.
A healthy noun doesn’t need adjectives. Adjectives clutter a noun hat is robust. But if the noun is culture-damaged or culture-diseased, adjectives are necessary.
‘Pastor” used to be that kind of noun—energetic and virile. I e always loved the sound of the word. From an early age, the word called to mind a person who was passionate for God and compassionate with people. And even though the pastors I knew did not embody those characteristics, the word itself held its own against its exemplars. Today still, when people ask me what I want to be called, I always say, “Pastor.”
But when I observe the way the vocation of pastor is lived out in America and listen to the tone and context in which the word pastor is spoken, I realize that what I hear in the word and what others hear is very different. In general usage, the noun is weak, defined by parody and diluted by opportunism. The need for strengthening adjectives is critical.
I find I have to exercise this adjectival rehabilitation constantly, redefining by refusing the definitions of pastor that the culture hands me, and reformulating my life with the insights and images of Scripture. The culture treats me so amiably! It encourages me to maintain my orthodox creed; it commends me for my evangelical practice; it praises me for my singular devotion. All it asks is that I accept its definition of my work as an encourager of the cultures good will, as the priest who will sprinkle holy water on the culture’s good intentions. Many of these people are my friends. None, that I am aware of, is consciously malign.
But if I, even for a moment, accept my culture’s definition of me, I am rendered harmless. I can denounce evil and stupidity all I wish and will 1 be tolerated in my denunciations as a court jester is tolerated. I can organize their splendid goodwill and they will let me do it, since it is only for weekends. The essence of being a pastor begs for redefinition.
You’ve been raised on the Message of the faith and have followed sound teaching. Now pass on this counsel to the Christians there, and you’ll be a good servant of Jesus. Stay clear of silly stories that get dressed up as religion (I Timothy 4:6-7a, The Message). I believe the noun “Christian” needs to be redefined too. Muslims perceive Christians as the kind of Americans that Hollywood movie portrait – immoral or amoral, violent and abusive, no respect for parents, seniors and god, sexually wild…They have no respect of Christians because to the devoted Muslims, Christians betray the teaching of Jesus or what he represents. The noun “Christian,” to some people, could imply religious hypocrite. Have mercy on us, O Lord. We need to take our faith and Christ’s teaching seriously, otherwise, we bring shame to name of “Christ.” God knows we are weak and imperfect. But it does not mean we surrender to our flesh and let Satan take over. Let’s hold each other accountable to stand firm. Finally, be strong in the LORD and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes (Eph 6:10-11).
Have a blessed weekend to rest in the Lord!
Love you in Christ,