Devotional Thought of the Day”
11 Christ chose some of us to be apostles, prophets, missionaries, pastors, and teachers, 12 so that his people would learn to serve and his body would grow strong. 13 This will continue until we are united by our faith and by our understanding of the Son of God. Then we will be mature, just as Christ is, and we will be completely like him. Eph. 4:11-13 CEV
Agape calls for kindness on some occasions and harshness on others. To give kindness when harshness is needed is no more agape than to give harshness when kindness is needed, for agape means going by the needs of the other, not the inclinations of the self.
There is a burden placed on all those in ministry, the “so that” of verse 12 – that His people would learn to serve and the church would go strong. Unity in depending on God, and understanding who Jesus is (to humanity) is the measure.
That is a lot of weight to carry, especially as we are sinners dealing with sinners. It calls for an amount of love that can only be considered “divine”. A love that knows when it is necessary to be harsh, and a love that knows when it is necessary to be gentle. A love that knows when steps to maturity are baby steps, and when to be the drill instructor pushing them to run another five miles. This is what appropriate ministry is. Knowing when and how to help people love each other, and meet real needs, no matter what the cost.
Notice I didn’t say knowledge to know these things. I said love, or Kreeft’s more specific term for this love, agape. The kind of love that sacrifices everything, because the person loves needs it. The kind of love willing to be hated, if that is the cost of helping.
It is this love which must compel our actions, not just our minds.
The cost of this can be beyond measure. Paul indicated the extent of that payment in Romans, he would give up his soul, if possible, if only the Jewish people could know and walk with the Messiah. Moses pleaded like that, as did Ezekiel, Jeremiah and so many of the prophets.
Here is the flip- this isn’t just the burden on pastors and prophets, evangelists and apostles. It is a burden all believers should have, for those who are lost. For this is God’s burden for us. It is a burden that comes from realizing what God has done in our lives, what He is doing, and seeing others whose lives are shattered.
Pray for your pastors as they bear this burden… and share in it… for you know the love of Christ for you, and for those you are to minister to…
We all need it.
Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 75–76.