Do You Love Me?

In Blogs by Clarence Johnson2 Comments


If you listen to Paul’s heart as you read the epistles, you discover that he has more than a theological familiarity with the hardship, distress, sleeplessness, and the personal attacks that accompany ministering to people in the name of Christ.

Yet, in spite of the painful obstacles he faced, Paul stands tall as a universal example to pastors of what it means to be a loving shepherd over the Savior’s flock.

There were people in Corinth who were energetically working to turn the fledgling church against Paul. Wounded from without as well as from within, he continued to offer his whole heart to those to whom he ministered. In 2 Corinthians 6 he shared about the challenges, but also how wide-open and unrestrained his heart was in its love for them. Regardless of their behavior, his heart was not hidden behind the protective armor of biblical authority or knowledge (v. 11).

Paul opens up and speaks freely from his heart. He shares how the deep affection he has for the church is not being reciprocated. The place reserved for him in their hearts was shrinking and their flow of affection had faded to a trickle in his direction. Their love was restrained toward him (v. 12).

Pastors are not perfect, nor are members of a congregation. It takes both a pastor and a congregation who love the Lord and each other to nurture an effective ministry.

He speaks to them like a loving father saying, “I love you. The welcome mat is out and the door of my heart is unlocked and unprotected. Open your hearts to us in the same way” (v.12).  Without scolding them, he repeats his impassioned appeal in chapter 7, “Make room for us in your hearts” (v. 2). Something had happened to wither their hearts and block the channel through which their love once flowed for him (v 7). He had wronged no one nor had he taken advantage of anyone. Rumor, slander, gossip, and misunderstood admonishments slithered into the church and tightened their grip around their hearts. Hearts filled with hurts, doubts, and suspicions had shut and locked their doors.

The bond Paul feels with them cannot be broken by death or life (v. 3), but a shepherd cannot penetrate the depths of a person’s life when their heart is inaccessible. Even though he may knock, there is no true fellowship. His words of encouragement or rebuke bounce off the protected heart and are rendered ineffectual, their strength negated.

Today, it is universally understood that, like Paul, a pastor is to be loving, compassionate, kind, and forgiving regardless of how hard the ministry is or how problematic members of the flock may be. Even the world superficially holds to this basic image of what a pastor is supposed to be.

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Congregations are often quick to point the finger at a faithful pastor for what appears to be an ineffective ministry. Pastors are not perfect, nor are members of a congregation. It takes both a pastor and a congregation who love the Lord and each other to nurture an effective ministry.

The principle is similar to the parable of the sower and the seed. It doesn’t matter how hard or long the sower works, if the soil of the heart is not soft and ready to receive the seed, the labor of the sower is ineffective. Many church members give their money, their time, their opinions, but few give their hearts and love without restriction to those whom God has called to lead them, those tasked with sowing the seed in their lives.

It is easy to make excuses or produce a list of justifications for holding back. Is it possible that your pastor’s heart, like Paul’s, is breaking because his love for the flock is traveling down a one-way street? Like Tevye’s song in Fiddler on the Roof, is your pastor left to wonder, “Do you love me?”

Have you given your heart to your pastor or is it closed to his attempts to touch the very core of your walk with Christ?

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Clarence Johnson

Clarence Johnson is a biblical educator, writer, and speaker.

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