I have often thought when hearing of another nose-dive from ministry, “not him?” but underlying that has been a naive attitude that has assumed that it won’t ever be me.
This is what happens when we employ shibboleths. We don’t engage in critical thinking, we don’t assume the value of the other person, and we don’t speak with kindness to or about those outside the boundaries of our groups.
Through that grace, we love God fully and love our neighbor fully. That’s the purpose of all our salvation, and in the end, our ministry.
Beware the excuse that lets you off the hook, or lets your friends, your ideological companions, or your heroes off the hook.
We move as quickly as we can, and as slowly as we need to, for as long as it takes.
This “pacing” principle requires three qualities: a sense of urgency, the discipline to slow down when necessary, and the patience to keep on keeping on. Such pacing is an art that allows us to move forward together.
To that, Jesus would say, “It doesn’t matter. The ground of our forgiveness is not our circumstances. The ground of our grace is not emotion.”
There are very few leadership qualities that can’t be faked. You and I both know that real leadership costs something – and that every newly elected President of the United States who has worked hard to prove him or herself a worthy leader finds out quickly just what it costs to be one of the leaders of the free world.
Yet day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year, and decade after decade, Jeremiah persistently did what God had called him to do. He didn’t give up, he didn’t move to a city where people were more responsive, he didn’t modify his message, he persistently carried on doing what God had called on him to do.
When nothing stands between our heart and God’s heart, God can become our hiding place rather than the One from whom we hide.
Incidentally, the Greek word translated “required of you” can also be translated as “a payment due.” That is the real point of the parable. Not just your possessions, but your life belongs to God. That is the classical, Christian understanding of our lives. We are sojourners here, pilgrims, travelers. In the beautiful words of the Letter to the Hebrews, “Here on earth have we no continuing place.” We are here for a short time. We are supposed to use that time in order to live responsibly as stewards of the gifts that God has given to us. Christians have always believed that. We are just travelers, passing through, so make the most of it.