Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Ephesians 4:2
At a recent lunch, a man was trying to convince me he was called to be a pastor. I asked him if he enjoyed helping people and he told me he did as they long as they were willing to work at the problem. I told him he was probably called to be a counselor and not a pastor. I explained to him that pastors are called to walk with people whether they are on board with the process or not.
This past weekend we celebrated the resurrection and I was reminded once again that Jesus did not die on the cross because we were finally ready for him to help us. In fact, Jesus came looking for us long before we even knew we needed redemption. Jesus was working in us and around us, with great patience, even when we were less than cooperative.
The passage from Ephesians that I quoted above mentions humility, gentleness and patience, but the word that is most troublesome is the word “bearing”, which means to “endure through suffering.” Sometimes the people we are called to love and pastor are not ready to make right choices, or to meet with us for counsel. They may not even care about the consequences of their choices. Are we then supposed to move on to the next person and discard the one who is not ready for our help?
A counselor might have every right to make that call, but a pastor cannnot. We must love them, while not enabling them. We must pray for their eyes to be opened, and stand alongside them. We should certainly not allow them to abuse us or others, but waiting and praying for God’s work to be completed in their lives is a chore and a privilege that comes with the calling of pastor.
But, for how long?
As long as it takes. Patience is simply hopeful waiting and there is no expiration date for hope. Our church is full of people who were called out of the darkness into the light. That is my story and I suspect it is your story. Somewhere in that journey, we can all point to people who did not give up on us and we are certainly thankful for Jesus who patiently pursued us.