Devotional Thought of the Day:
27 And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, but the only one healed was Naaman, a Syrian.” Luke 4:27 (NLT)
15 And I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will guide you with knowledge and understanding. Jeremiah 3:15 (NLT)
7 Do not waste time arguing over godless ideas and old wives’ tales. Instead, train yourself to be godly. 8 “Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come.” 9 This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it. 10 This is why we work hard and continue to struggle, for our hope is in the living God, who is the Savior of all people and particularly of all believers. 11 Teach these things and insist that everyone learn them. 12 Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity. 13 Until I get there, focus on reading the Scriptures to the church, encouraging the believers, and teaching them. 14 Do not neglect the spiritual gift you received through the prophecy spoken over you when the elders of the church laid their hands on you. 15 Give your complete attention to these matters. Throw yourself into your tasks so that everyone will see your progress. 16 Keep a close watch on how you live and on your teaching. Stay true to what is right for the sake of your own salvation and the salvation of those who hear you. 1 Timothy 4:7-16 (NLT)
“In the stillness of the little room the bishop sighed deeply. His eyes saw the bejeweled crucifix that hung at his chest.He prayed silently. Then he sent for his secretary and ordered the searcht o begin. Then, alone once more, he split himself into the three persons that all generals of the Church must simultaneously be. First, the anointed Peter, first bishop of the Christ, with all that spiritually implied. Second the militant guardian of the Church temporal with all that implied. And last, just a simple man who believed the teachings of a simple man who the Son of God.
He settled back in his chair and let these facets of himself argue one with another. And He listened to them. (from Tai-Pan by James Clavell – emphasis mine.)
One of my favorite authors is James Clavell, and his saga of Asia. The way he shows all of his characters, in both their best light and in their darkest moments, make the stories seem so life like, so realistic. This is especially true about the clergy in the books, especially this Bishop in Tai-pan, who has to make a decision, a hard decision, whether to respond to the needs of an unrepentant sinner and an enemy of the Church of Rome.
While I am no bishop, I understand the dilemma, the argument the bishop hears from his “three” persons are real. I’ve been there as well, involved in the pastoral version of the Kobayashi Maru.
Do I make my decision based on what I perceive as is best for the church at large, a lesson for the encouragement of others, who might see my work as representing what I approve? Would my helping out the sinner lead others into sin? Would the work compromise my ability to minister spiritually to others?
Do I make my decision based on my responsibility for the material nature of the church? In this case, the Bishop was offered anything in the sinners power to provide a small portion of a rare medication to his mistress, who was pregnant with child. Should he make the decision to deny this, the hero would certainly use his power and influence to gain revenge on the church. If he helped, the advantage would be enormous,not just financially, but SStruanhad promised to visibly “convert”, even if he couldn’t in his heart.
The last possible decision, responding to Straun as simply a man to another man in need. To respond in unconditional love, to help out just because he felt Christ would.
I would normally say, go for door number three, that is the obvious answer. Or at least it is the one I expect, even as first two personas kick and screw about the lack of logic in that decision.
Yet, in my heart, I know it is not accurate to make the decision based on the third option. For my only responsibility is not to the third situation. As a pastor, I must consider the impact to the entire church, both spiritually and physically. And like the fabled Star Trek officers test, I must understand the implications, the challenges, and own them.
I love what the Bishop, this leader of the church did, in the scene. He first prayed, and then he allowed himself to argue the situation out, listening, hearing each of the voices. I won’t give the story away, but I can say this:
His answer would satisfy in the end, all three concerns.
He sweated it out, he worked through the dilemma, and because he prayed and listened, and was patient, he came to a conclusion.
It would cost him, and yet the cost would be having an enormous teaching moment, a moment to catechize Struan, and his community, and wait for the Holy Spirit to work in the hearts of those involved. It doesn’t resolve perfectly, in the end, yet, mercy was known, love was accepted, healing happened.
And peace was known, not just by those to whom he served, but amazingly, in his own life. The kind of peace that is not of this world, nor would seem logical, but is the peace of Christ, the peace Christ gives to all those He treasures.
(BTW – this is applicable to more than pastors and priests. )