If there were ever a pastoral prayer I believe this would suffice:
“O God, it is You who know my folly, and my wrongs are not hidden from You.
May those who wait for You not be ashamed through me, O Lord GOD of hosts;
May those who seek You not be dishonored through me, O God of Israel” Psalm 69:5-6
I can vividly recall Puerto Rican mother’s crying and wailing this entire Psalm as their son’s and daughter’s were either approaching incarceration or already serving sentences. I had placed my faith in Christ only a few days while residing at My Brother’s Keeper, Inc., in North Camden, New Jersey. It was located in-between River Front Prison and one of the most violent neighborhoods on the eastern shoreline of America. The drugs, violence and utter corruption of all that is good and decent seemed to reigned there. And yet, there were these oasis of God’s presence scattered throughout this long stretch of Hispanic and Black community.
During one of the evening Chapel services I’ll never forget the deep anguish these mothers and grandmothers represented. I asked someone and they told me this was a Psalm of Protection for prisoners. I later came to learn of its Christotelic or Messianic implications – referring to how certain portions were also attributed to Christ’ prophetic fulfillment of the scriptures such as vss 20-21:
“Reproach has broken My heart and I am so sick. And I looked for sympathy, but there was none. And for comforters, but I found none. They also gave Me gall for my food and for My thirst they gave Me vinegar to drink.”
Only as of late have I come to more concretely appreciate these mother’s woes.
But there is also another dynamic force moving and working within this text. Not one of oppression, but one of sincere and committed submission to the responsibility of leadership. This portion (vs5) of the psalm reveals the deep anguish and concern a leader is consumed by as He realizes how his decisions have great and eternal weight.
I realize that in today’s relativistic society where everyone believes they have the right to do what pleases them, many forget there are consequences for all of our actions and decisions. Many times reaching much farther than they had ever imagined. When I consider the perception Christian leaders hold in today’s culture it is not one that can be easily defended. Rumors; many times substantiated; diminish the integrity of the office they hold. Thusly, jeopardizing salvation by creating yet another obstacle for the unchurched and unsaved person. Personal choices seem to override their submission to the sovereignty and authority that God calls every spiritual leader and teacher to uphold within the community.
There is certainly a place for mercy and grace when tragic faults in character are displayed – for truly all do sin and fall short of God’s glory – but those renderings of gracious forgiveness must not be relegated to opportunities to be used as trump cards based upon soteriological (salvific) manipulation.
It is especially important that those who are called to the ministry as servant-leaders who represent the people to God and God to the people – to always be cognizant of their roles, responsibilities and reputations in the community. Here accountability to others and transparency to God through ones personal devotions are integral to maintaining ones effectiveness in the Lord’s service.
Prayer: Dear Lord Jesus our gracious redeemer; May we too be as concerned. May we too seek to honor our Heavenly Father and His people as we serve in our callings – that certainly demand great sacrifice and deeper levels of humility. May the people of God continue to create and support their leaders with loving kindness, muted voices of spiritual immaturity and prayers filled with the aroma of submission that breeds holiness amongst the body and a vibrant witness before all others. Amen.