Doctors take an oath to “do no harm.” Pastors can empathize.
We (Pastors) really do not relish the thought of hurting or harming anyone. The truth of God in His Word sometimes does inflict wounds of conviction upon souls, but we pray for God’s mercy to accompany such conviction to bring about repentance. But what happens when a Pastor hurts one of the sheep in ways that could have or should have been prevented?
Well, a few days ago I had one of the most painful experiences of my ministry so far. My heart literally still aches from it. I do not expect to get over it quickly. I am so disappointed in myself. I hurt a brother. Wounded him unnecessarily. I said something from the pulpit many months ago that hurt him and made him feel humiliated. The fact that I do not remember saying it does not change his hurt, nor excuse my thoughtlessness. I am so sorry for my words. I cannot retract them. I can only ask for forgiveness. From God. From the hurt brother. This I did when the brother confronted me. But I will continue to do so for quite some time. I need forgiveness.
As I’ve reflected and tried to recall the situation and sermon, I’ve come to conclude I was probably just trying to be funny by way of sarcasm. I am 100% sure I meant no personal harm or humiliation to this man. But God is teaching me through my brother that preachers need to use sarcasm with extreme caution. Sarcasm does not land softly or humorously upon every listener. God forgive me. God please keep teaching me how to most effectively communicate the eternal truths of Your Word without needlessly hurting the sheep. Without feeling like I must be funny. Without any desire other than to see Your Holy Son Jesus magnified, dead sinners brought to life in Him, and saints farther conformed to Him.
For any preachers or Bible teachers out there reading this post, be warned. Words matter. Seek the Holy Spirit’s bridle (James 3).
For any church members out there reading this post, please know that your pastors need the same Jesus, the same grace, the same forgiveness that you do. We will fail from time to time. Jesus never fails. We will from time to time need you to love us enough to confront us. We will need you to render “faithful wounds of a friend” (Prov 27:6). We will need you to forgive us “just as God in Christ has forgiven you” (Eph 4:32). Please do not harbor ill will or allow bitterness to grow in your heart simply because a pastor or preacher has (likely unintentionally) said something that hurt you. Go seek reconciliation. Give your pastor the opportunity to hear you, to discuss the matter, and most importantly, to repent if needed.
To the brother who finally took that courageous step with me, I want to say “Thank you.” I do not deserve to be your pastor. I’m deeply grateful for your grace. Giving me a second chance brings glory to our Savior who gives us those “second” chances each and every day.
“Let a righteous man smite and reprove me, it is a kindness to me; it is oil upon my head. Do not let my head refuse it” (Psalm 141:5).