Some weeks ago, I devoted two entries to events which included a young couple who had just joined the church in Mandela Park. http://josephsawatzky.blogspot.com/2009/09/beginning-of-wisdom.html and http://joeannasawatzky.blogspot.com/2009/08/mothering.html Less than two months later, that relationship has unraveled; the husband left the wife and two children and the pastor of Mandela Park behind to work with "another pastor" in an area about 80 km from here.
The news came as a big disappointment for me. The pastor was hoping that his younger colleague would be a great help to the ministry, that they could lean on one another to meet the needs of their people. In order to ensure that that might happen, we had held a special service of blessing for the couple, signaling their status as leaders of the congregation. I left that Sunday feeling pleased that we had done all we could to get the relationship off to a good start. Its unraveling, therefore, comes as a betrayal also to me, the one who offered the words of encouragement that day from the Bible.
The situation is doubtless a greater crisis for the wife and the pastor who were left behind than it is for me. Nevertheless, it also leaves me vulnerable; it forces me to face the prospect of my own ineffectiveness as a minister/teacher of the gospel. I believe in the power of the Word of God; I have experienced it in both personal study and public proclamation. As a result, I find it amazing that a person who has witnessed the power of the Spirit in the company of the Word can--and so soon--do the very thing the Word told him not to do.
According to the pastor, his departed colleague was heard to say that he "believes he is called by God to serve this other pastor". If such a call is true, that is, from God, then we must accept it (regardless, we have to live with it). Yet that call rings hollow. It comes, seemingly, from a spirit without content, without knowledge, without the Word. It comes from a spirit that says "leave wife and children for the sake of the good news"--the very ones, now in essence widowed and orphaned, whom the good news was given to serve. For what other reason was the good news given than to make us better husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, humans-in-community?
Jesus, of course, did tell us to "hate wife and children" (Lk. 14:26), among other family members, in the pursuit of following him. This is rightly a call to resist in one's life the counsel or wisdom of any human authority as greater than God; being controlled by the wisdom of one's spouse or children can lead a family away from the blessings of God. Yet, those who have entered the holy covenant of marriage will find that an increased loyalty to God will lead to an increased--not decreased--concern for the well-being of "wife and children". In other words, we must "hate them" in favor of God in order to love them as God does.
How does God love them, love us? With the words of Ephesians 5 no doubt in the background of his mind, the pastor who was left behind is fond of saying, "The wife of Jesus is the church; I have my own wife". "Just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her," so the pastor must give himself to his wife (Eph. 5:25). That is his calling as a man of God.