Years ago I worked as a claim adjuster for a large auto insurance company. Yes, I know, as a profession, auto claim adjusters rank just above used car salesmen and those attorneys with the loud television advertisements that promise to be able to get you out of a DUI. However, for the most part, I enjoyed my job. I took satisfaction in being able to help people during a stressful time. Also, I enjoyed those times when I had the opportunity conduct an investigation that prevented payment on bogus claims.
Notice, though, I said I enjoyed it “for the most part.”
See, I have been called every name in the book. I have been accused of being the devil, possessed by the devil, and in cahoots with the devil’s offspring. I have been asked how I sleep at night (soundly), if my mom would be proud of me (she says she is), or, if my wife knows what a low-life I am at work (pleading the Fifth on this one). This happened despite the fact that I worked diligently to handle every claim fairly. The truth is, you can’t please everyone.
It was stressful to know that someone was upset at decisions I had made. But the stress was tempered a bit since I only interacted with this person two or three times, and usually over the telephone. Once the claim process was over, I would never hear from them again.
I knew when I entered full-time pastoral ministry that I wouldn’t be able to please everybody. I had no notions that since I was now a Pastor my workaday world would be characterized by non-stop adulation and palm fronds being dropped on the ground to meet my every step. I actually thought my experience in the world of auto claims would prepare me for the times when I would let people down and upset them.
Man, was I ever wrong about that.
In church ministry, the strangers don’t complain, they just quietly go to a different church. People ask, “Where did that young couple go with the two perfectly behaved kids, the late model luxury SUV and the 30% tithe check?” Um, they had some good friends at the church up the road, I guess.
In church ministry, the people who bring us their hurts and disappointments about us, are our friends and loved ones. They invite us out to lunch and we look forward to it because we have known them for years, and have no idea we are about to get torpedoed. These aren’t strangers on the phone we only talk to once or twice. No, these are people who share our life. We have sought their opinions on important matters on more than a few occasions. We esteem them. And now, they are saying, “You don’t measure up.”
For me, their words sting because somewhere in my mind I think they might be true. If this were some stranger with a chip on his shoulder I could perhaps dismiss him with a polite, “I guess you and I just see this matter from two different perspectives.” But these words are coming from a friend, and these words say I have failed, and I think I might believe him.
On His way to Jerusalem, Jesus tells His disciples that He is going to be killed there, and rise again. Two of His disciples respond by asking, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory” (Mark 10:37). I’m not sure what that felt like to Jesus. He had just disclosed His suffering to them, and they wanted to know who was going to get the best seat in heaven. The Bible doesn’t tell us what it felt like, either, but certainly it wasn’t pleasant to have His closest friends completely disregard His suffering and redemptive ministry in order to pursue their own interests.
You have just preached your guts out about the glories of Jesus and His redemption. After the service a long time member and friend says, “Looked a little light in there today. Well, I suppose it is summer, lots of people are out camping.”
You have just returned to the office in the afternoon from the graveside with just you and a young couple burying their stillborn baby. Awaiting you is one of the deacons working in the food pantry, “Welcome to the office pastor, must be nice to just work one day a week!”
Jesus tells us this in Mark 10:39, “You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with,” and then in verse 45, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Brothers, in the sting of hurt we enter the water with Jesus. With the wound from a friend bleeding out, we lift a cup with our savior and drink together. Friends, this is good company to keep. If I never leave the baptism waters of pain or put down the cup of hurt, and find myself in the presence of Jesus, then I have found the best place to be.