Pulling rank: What some pastors do which Jesus never did

Standing with a group of pastors, chatting and fellowshipping and shooting the (sacred) bull, someone came out with this:

“I told him I’m the pastor of the church, that God sent me here as the overseer, and if he doesn’t like it, he can find another church.”

That brought nods of approval, even from a couple who knew they would never have the gumption to say such a thing. Even if they feel it.

But that pastor is wrong.

Dead wrong.

If anyone on earth had the right to pull rank on other people, it was our Lord Himself.

Yet, He never did.

Now, God the Father didn’t seem to mind doing it.  Throughout the Old Testament the Almighty give commands and instructions to His people, then frequently added reminders that “I am the Lord!”  The idea being that “I have a right to say this, I have the authority to back it up, and you disobey at your own peril.”

Take the fascinating 19th chapter of Leviticus, the source of our Lord’s favorite “second greatest commandment” about loving your neighbor as yourself.  That chapter, thirty-seven verses long, contains numerous commands about treatment of foreigners, the poor, the vulnerable. Throughout, sixteen times we find God saying “I am the Lord.”

But the Lord Jesus did not pull rank on people.

When the religious big-shots grew rebellious over His abuse of the Sabbath as they saw it, Jesus reasoned with them: “Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath? to save a life? or to destroy it?” (Luke 6:9) Make them think.

When a delegation came from John the Baptist looking for confirmation from Jesus that He really was “The Expected One,” Jesus could have pulled out His credentials, shown them His badge and papers, and done a miracle or two. Instead, He said, “Go tell John what I’m doing here. The blind are seeing, the lame are walking, and the dead are being raised.  Tell him that.” (Luke 7:22). Show them the evidence.

When His host neglected to welcome Him in even the most basic of ways, Jesus did not pitch a temper tantrum or call down fire from Heaven.  He pointed out the loving behavior of someone who got it right. “You gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears, and wiped them dry with her hair.  You gave me no kiss of greeting, but this woman has not stopped kissing my feet.  You didn’t anoint my head with oil, but she anointed it with costly perfume.” (Luke 7:44ff.)  Point to someone who gets it right.

We can do this all day.

When they accused Him of working in the power of the devil himself, Jesus replied, “Then the devil is self-destructing, and you surely don’t want to interfere with that.” (My paraphrase) (Luke 11:18).  Give them logic. 

When the Pharisee grew offended because the Lord did not wash before eating, Jesus used it as an occasion to teach about hypocrisy (Luke 11:37ff.). Make it a teaching moment. 

When they criticized the way Jesus hung out with the fallen, He told them parables of a lost lamb, a lost coin, and a lost son (Luke 15). Bless them.

Our Lord controlled His reactions and turned criticism into opportunities for teaching and instruction.

–He turned opposition and hostility into lessons for the onlookers about His purpose.  (Do not miss this. In most cases, the Lord was not trying to convert the mean-spirited critic, but to win the spectators by His wisdom and spirit.)

–When the religious authorities became angrier than ever, Jesus wept over the city (Luke 19:41).

He did not pull rank.

“I am among you as one who serves,” He said. And He served them.

Let the pastor learn from the Master 

Pastor, no one minds submitting themselves to one who dedicates his life to serving them.

We do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake (2 Corinthians 4:5).

The moment you have to play the authority card, preacher, you have lost any authority you had.

To be like Jesus is to emulate the Good Shepherd. And what does He do? He lays down His life for the sheep. That’s John 10:11 and it’s your (and my) instructions.

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