September 18th, 2015
Jesus’ brother James says in his epistle that with our tongues we “bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God.” (James 3:9 ESV) He goes on to tell the reader that “these things ought not to be so.” (v 10) In no profession could this be more true than in pastoral ministry. James point is that hypocrisy says that we can bless God and all the while mistreat those made in His image. This truth effects not only the way a pastor interacts with other believers, but also the way a he interacts with those outside of the church. In reality, the truth that man is made is God’s image is one of the driving forces that drives a pastors ministry.
In may seem like an obvious point, but a pastor is to love and care for other believers, especially those specifically under his care. Of all men, pastors are especially called with a job, as James 3:9 says, to bless God. But at times, because of sin a pastor may lose sight of the fact that his church is made in God’s image and represents Christ himself. (1 Corinthians 12:27) Pastors are entrusted with the commission from Christ to shepherd the flock of God; this task includes counseling, listening to problems of sin, and becoming particularly close to his sheep’s personal and spiritual lives.
When a pastor becomes aware of all the sin problems happening among his people, he may be tempted to look down upong them. Temptation may arise to gossip and grumble about the problems in his congregation. He may tempted to grow weary and inpatient with those under his care. But this should not be so. Not only are Christians made in God’s image, but they are called God’s saints, or holy ones. (Colossians 1:2) Because of this, a pastor is called to be gentle and patient with Christians even as they struggle through sin. He is meant to lead people through repentance with a gentle hand, treating them with dignity and respect. As the great Shepherd (Hebrews 13:20), Jesus is a pastors ultimate example of how he should interact with the people of God.
Genesis 9:6 shows that even post-fall, being enslaved to sin and deserving of God’s wrath, man is still considered to be made in God’s image with inherent worth. Pastor’s therefore, are to interact with and view even those outside the flock with dignity and respect. There are two different ways that a pastor can express this idea in practical ways. First, a pastor must view unbelievers, not as potential pew fillers to make him feel successful, but as image bearers who need to be reconciled to God for His glory. Second, especially in regards to the poor and oppressed, a pastor must react with compassion towards the suffering of those outside the church.
One temptation of being a pastor is to view people as pew fillers. The more butts in the pews the more successful the pastor. Not only is this a misunderstanding of the churches purpose, but it also a way of turning image bearers into a means to our own ends. In light of the fact that unbelievers are made in God’s image, pastors are to treat them as such and to show them compassion and a sincere desire for them to know and enjoy Jesus Christ. Suffering runs rampant in a sin infested world. Another way that pastors might live out the truth of the image of God is to care for the poor and oppressed. Jesus himself identifies with them and even calls them his brothers and sisters. On the last day he will say to pastors “as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” (Matthew 25:40 ESV)
As a leader within the church, the pastor is to exemplify the way Christians are to interact with one another and with unbelievers. As a pastor goes, so goes his congregation. Truth demands action. And so the truth that man is made in the image and likeness of God demands action to treat them as such.