UNDERNEATH THE COSTUME
by David Sisler
In case you have forgotten, ministers are human beings. Before they are anything else, they are flesh and blood men and women. They have the same dreams, the same hopes, the same frustrations, the same fears as the rest of the population.
Whatever else ministers bring into their calling, they bring themselves.
They may have a call to be a shepherd, caring for human beings who have hurts comparable to their own.
They may have a call to minister food and clothing to those who would otherwise go without, but who are ultimately as naked and as hungry as they are themselves.
They may have a call to walk hospital corridors, ministering to people who have succumbed to the same diseases they have so far avoided.
No matter what else they bring into the work, the minister brings the man or woman that he or she is. They may wish to become different people, but at this moment they carry the baggage of their past. Everything that has made them who they are, is right there on their resumes. Those things may be more important than all of their other credentials.
The New Testament uses several interesting words to describe the men and women who becomes God’s ministers. They are called stewards, heralds, and witnesses. With all respect to God’s Word, anyone can be a steward or a herald. Not everyone can be a witness.
Steward is a domestic word. A steward is someone has been entrusted by the head of the house to see to the well-being of the household and to take care of all aspects of the house. A list of duties is supplied. The steward performs them. No intimacy is required.
Herald is a political word. It takes us to where people gather. The setting may be formal or informal. The important thing is, people have gathered to hear a clear word from the king. The herald speaks, but again, no intimacy is required.
Witness is a legal word. It takes us into the court room. Hearsay is inadmissible. The opinions of another is inadmissible. Conclusions based on what another has said is inadmissible. Speculations, suppositions, surmises, suspicions are inadmissible. Only what the witness knows on a personal, intimate basis will be heard by the court.
Jesus Christ is on trial every time a man or a woman picks up the mantle of the priesthood. Jesus Christ is taken into the dock every time a man or a woman takes the title, “minister.” That man, that woman, is called to witness to the things they know personally. No other testimony will be heard.
Occasionally you hear it on the radio: “Such are the dreams of the everyday house wife.” You know what those dreams are. They are the same as your own. The man or the woman who answers God’s call may wear clerical vestments, a business suit, or blue jeans. The covering is not important. Underneath the costume is a dreamer. Underneath the costume is naked humanity. Underneath the costume beats the heart of a man or a woman who has lived much of his or her life in violation of God. A minister needs a Savior just as certainly as the most despised sinner.
Timothy was a pastor in the Early Church. His mentor, Paul advised him, “Devote yourself to reading the Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. Do not neglect your gift. Be diligent in these matters. Give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. Watch your life and doctrine closely.”
Why was the young pastor given this advice? “Persevere in them,” Paul said, “because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.” The minister is not called to a holier-than-thou life, but to a holy life. God’s Son is the source of holiness. The minister is not called to a better life, but to a different life. God’s Son is the difference. If God’s minister does not trust God’s Son, he or she will be a blind guide leading other blind men. The ditch awaits them all.
Copyright 2003 by David Sisler. All Rights Reserved.
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