When People Leave

Noah’s preaching convinced no one but his own family. The apostles, infected as they were with God’s own Spirit even to the point of performing miracles, built no cathedrals. They died in poverty, failures, and victims of their congregations’ violence. God forbid that we should ever dare to judge a pastor by the size of his congregation or think poorly of him due to the number he has “lost.” Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves. Of course, it doesn’t work. It isn’t designed to work. That is the sola of sola gratia.

The devil mocks the Word of God for sending mere mortals, and sinners at that, to do His sacred work. He ever attacks them with doubt. His raspy whisper still echoes in our minds: “Did God really say? Did God really send me?” That old liar has no new tricks. It was Abel’s brother who murdered him and Joseph’s flesh and blood who betrayed and then sold him to the Ishmaelites. So, too, does the man of God these days suffer abuse from his brothers. Satan’s doubts are most painfully raised when it is our own who lay the blame for the sheeps’ unfaithfulness at our feet.

There is blame to be laid. There is no denying that. We’ve been caught in the act. None of us has ever loved God’s people as much as God loves them – not even close. We have stood in the stead of Christ with greed, lust, and pride in our hearts. So let him who is without sin cast the first stone upon us guilty men. Let him fulfill the Law’s stern demands upon us and take our life. Thanks be to God, the only One who could, the One who did not sin, will not. Instead He bears the Law’s burden and punishment for us. Let all the sheep leave. Let them revile and hate us. The Shepherd of our souls is ever faithful – even in the belly of the whale or in the lions’ den.

When Luther felt the devil’s attacks and questioning of his salvation he responded, “I am baptized.” Perhaps we should respond to such questions regarding our faithfulness and wisdom with nothing more than “I am ordained.” It is Christ who has sent us. In so far as we have sinned, we have been forgiven. In so far as we have warned the wicked and the righteous, regardless of how they respond, we have delivered our souls.

Ezekiel 3:17 – 21 “Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; therefore hear a word from My mouth, and give them warning from Me. When I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life, that same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at your hand. Yet, if you warn the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you have delivered your soul. Again, when a righteous man turns from his righteousness and commits iniquity, and I lay a stumbling block before him, he shall die; because you did not give him warning, he shall die in his sin, and his righteousness which he has done shall not be remembered; but his blood I will require at your hand. Nevertheless if you warn the righteous man that the righteous should not sin, and he does not sin, he shall surely live because he took warning; also you will have delivered your soul.”