shepherding the shepherd
In his cave on Patmos, John saw a revelation of the glorified Christ, whom we also shall see. He was robed in white with a golden sash, his hair was white as snow and his eyes blazed like fire. “His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters.” Stunning! Breathtaking! Knee-buckling! But that’s not all.
Beginning about 100 AD, 150,000 poor and powerless Christians were interred in the “sleeping spaces” (dormir) of the Roman catacombs. Over 10,000 of those tombs were inscribed with epitaphs and very simple drawings capturing the exultant faith of Christians who had lived under constant threats for their faith.
I’ve never officiated at the funeral of a martyr. Well, on second thought, I have. Every Christian funeral is a martyrion, for the Greek word means witness, testimony. Those whose funerals we officiate haven’t been murdered for their faith in Jesus Christ but, even so, their testimony of faith was never more eloquent than at their funeral.
Our calling as pastors is to fortify the overcomers. We arm them with grace and truth. We assure them that “there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” We counsel them to abstain from sinful desires, which war against their souls and to live unimpeachably good lives among the pagans. We pray for them when they fall into sin or when their faith falters.
There’s a lot of dying in pastoral work. It’s not really the sacrifices themselves that take a toll but the sacrifices of self that get old. Being a servant is one thing; being treated like a servant is another. When I bear with a critic in love or forgive someone who takes my grace for granted—well, then I’m actually laying down my life.