“Pastor, my aunt Bernice would like you to visit her this week. There’s something she wants to talk with you about.”
I knew this young deacon’s Aunt Bernice. She was up in years and sickly, and while not a member of our church, she was related to quite a number. I figured with her years and health, she wanted to talk with the minister about getting read to see the Lord.
She did, but not in the way I had expected.
The next afternoon, as we sat in the living room of her small shotgun house, she said, “Pastor, I know I’m saved. I have no doubt about that. I remember being saved. But there’s something else bothering me.”
“Pastor, I haven’t done right by the church.”
She continued, “As a young adult, I got away from the church and quit going. I raised my son without the church and really came to regret it. And now I’m old and can’t even go. But if you’d let me, I’d like to put my membership in and become a member. I’ll pray for you all and send an offering from my monthly check.”
I assured her we would be honored to receive her, and took care of that the next Sunday.
I never forgot her statement—“I haven’t done right by the church”—and have had occasion over the years since to tell her story, then ask my hearers, “Have you done right by the Lord’s church?”
A man in our congregation was dying. On one occasion as I visited in his home, he asked to speak to me privately. I felt it coming: he wanted to confess something that was bothering him before he went to meet the Savior.
I was right.
“Pastor,” he said, “when I was a much younger man, I did some experimentation in my personal life that I’m ashamed of.”
He told the story, then said, “I’ve asked the Lord to forgive me, but it still troubles me. I don’t want to go into eternity with that on the record. Can you help me?”
Have you ever had one of those times when you felt the nearness of the Lord so heavily you could almost reach out and touch Him? That moment was just so.
I said, “My dear brother, the Lord has forgiven you for that sin and all the others. Jesus Christ paid for your sins with His blood.”
He looked at me and said nothing. So I added something I had never said in my entire life to that point.
“I want you to know, I forgive you for your sin.”
At that moment, I knew what it means to be a priest. I was standing in the stead of the Lord Himself for a brief shining instant.
The peace of the Lord washed over him and a few days later, he went to heaven.
I need to make a confession here.