Like a Mother and a Father
For you remember, brothers, our labor and toil: we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. You are witnesses, and God also, how holy and righteous and blameless was our conduct toward you believers. For you know how, like a father with his children, we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory. 1 Thessalonians 2:9-12
Growing up in my house, my brother and I knew usually knew how far that we could push our mother. Most summer days were fine because we would be outside in the neighborhood with friends. The days that would usually lead to trouble were the days when it would rain and we would be confined to the same space. Our mother was patient, maybe even long-suffering on such days, but she had her limit. When we pushed her too far, her go to response was, “Don’t make me tell your father!” That was usually all it took. Our father was not the most fierce disciplinarian ever, but just the threat of Mom telling Dad as soon as he walked in the door was a normally all the threat that was needed. Mom could hold her own with us, but when she called for reinforcements from Dad, we knew we were “going to get it.”
In 1 Thessalonians chapter 2, Paul shifts from describing His ministry among the Thessalonians as “gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children” to “like a father with his children, we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you.” To the Corinthians, Paul wrote that he had become “all things to all people” for the sake of proclaiming the Gospel. To the Thessalonians, his two contrasting metaphors, demonstrate the art of his preaching and care for the flock. Just a few weeks ago, former seminary professor Richard Warneck died. Dr. Warneck taught pastoral theology to generations of pastors in the Synod. He wrote, “Pastoral care is the care the pastor gives in the way of proper distinction between the Law and Gospel, according to the Scriptures for the total welfare of each member of the flock or congregation, giving special attention to the maturing of each Christian in faith and life, and ultimately his or her peace with God (eternal salvation) through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Pastoral Ministry: Theology and Practice, p. 229)
Was he like a mother or father? It depended on what was needed. Paul could be gentle and nurturing when that was what was needed. He could also exhort, encourage and charge when his hearers needed such. This is the art of pastoral care in knowing when to convict and when to console, in wielding the two-edged sword of Law and Gospel. Like parents of unruly children, pastors pray for wisdom as they apply Law and Gospel to the congregation in preaching and pastoral care. As C.F.W. Walther stated, “Rightly distinguishing the Law and the Gospel is the most difficult and the highest art of Christians in general and of theologians in particular.” May God grant such discernment to pastors as they serve the people of God, skillfully applying God’s Word.
Prayer - Lord God, Your Word is living and active, sharper than any double-edged sword, penetrating even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow, judging the thoughts and attitudes of the heart; may Your Law convict me of my sin and may Your Gospel assure me that my sins are forgiven for Jesus’ sake; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Fraternally in Christ,
President Lee Hagan