Thursday, June 28, 2007

Honoring Spiritual Fathers Under the 4th Commandment

In the Large Catechism, which we are all bound to as Lutherans to accept as a right exposition of the Word of God, Luther provides this explanation of how to apply the Fourth Commandment to our treatment of pastors [emphases mine]:
158] Thus we have two kinds of fathers presented in this commandment, fathers in blood and fathers in office, or those to whom belongs the care of the family, and those to whom belongs the care of the country. Besides these there are yet spiritual fathers; not like those in the Papacy, who have indeed had themselves called thus, but have performed no function of the paternal office. For those only are called spiritual fathers who govern and guide us by the Word of God; 159] as St. Paul boasts his fatherhood 1 Cor. 4, 15, where he says: In Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the Gospel. Now, 160] since they are fathers they are entitled to their honor, even above all others. But here it is bestowed least; for the way which the world knows for honoring them is to drive them out of the country and to grudge them a piece of bread, and, in short, they must be (as says St. Paul, 1 Cor. 4, 13) as the filth of the world and everybody's refuse and footrag.

161] Yet there is need that this also be urged upon the populace, that those who would be Christians are under obligation in the sight Of God to esteem them worthy of double honor who minister to their souls, that they deal well with them and provide for them. For that, God is willing to add to you sufficient blessing and will not let you come to want. 162] But in this matter every one refuses and resists, and all are afraid that they will perish from bodily want, and cannot now support one respectable preacher, where formerly they filled ten fat paunches. 163] In this we also deserve that God deprive us of His Word and blessing, and again allow preachers of lies to arise to lead us to the devil, and, in addition, to drain our sweat and blood.

164] But those who keep in sight God's will and commandment have the promise that everything which they bestow upon temporal and spiritual fathers, and whatever they do to honor them, shall be richly recompensed to them, so that they shall have, not bread, clothing, and money for a year or two, but long life, support, and peace, and shall be eternally rich and blessed. 165] Therefore only do what is your duty, and let God take care how He is to support you and provide for you sufficiently. Since He has promised it, and has never yet lied, He will not be found lying to you.

166] This ought indeed to encourage us, and give us hearts that would melt in pleasure and love toward those to whom we owe honor, so that we would raise our hands and joyfully thank God who has given us such promises, for which we ought to run to the ends of the world [to the remotest parts of India]. For although the whole world should combine, it could not add an hour to our life or give us a single grain from the earth. But God wishes to give you all exceeding abundantly according to your heart's desire. He who despises and casts this to the winds is not worthy ever to hear a word of God. This has now been stated more than enough for all who belong under this commandment.
Let me reiterate: "Those who would be Christians are under obligation in the sight Of God to esteem them worthy of double honor who minister to their souls, that they deal well with them and provide for them. And he who despises and casts this to the winds is not worthy ever to hear a word of God."

That's a pretty uncommon sentiment in today's egalitarian culture. Today's laity typically thinks of the pastor as an employee under the congregation's authority, hired to entertain them with what their tickling ears want to hear. While the congregation has the collective authority to call a pastor, once called he is to be considered "worthy of double honor." There are very few biblical reasons to remove a pastor from office, which is reflected in most congregational constitutions. Unless a pastor is guilty of one of these offenses, it is not Christian to oppose him. And not only are we not to oppose him, we are to honor him!

And what does it mean to "honor?" Again, here is the Large Catechism:
105] To this estate of fatherhood and motherhood God has given the special distinction above all estates that are beneath it that He not simply commands us to love our parents, but to honor them. For with respect to brothers, sisters, and our neighbors in general He commands nothing higher than that we love them, so that He separates and distinguishes father and mother above all other persons upon earth, and places them at His side. 106] For it is a far higher thing to honor than to love one, inasmuch as it comprehends not only love, but also modesty, humility, and deference as to a majesty there hidden, 107] and requires not only that they be addressed kindly and with reverence, but, most of all, that both in heart and with the body we so act as to show that we esteem them very highly, and that, next to God, we regard them as the very highest. For one whom we are to honor from the heart we must truly regard as high and great.

...They are not to be deprived of their honor because of their conduct or their failings. Therefore we are not to regard their persons, how they may be, but the will of God who has thus created and ordained. In other respects we are, indeed, all alike in the eyes of God; but among us there must necessarily be such inequality and ordered difference, and therefore God commands it to be observed, that you obey me as your father, and that I have the supremacy.

110] Furthermore, that also in our words we observe modesty toward them, do not accost them roughly, haughtily, and defiantly, but yield to them and be silent, even though they go too far.
There we have the purpose of this blog, to search out how we should honor the Office of Holy Ministry, and the individuals who hold it.

But what about those who don't?

137] Whence come so many knaves that must daily be hanged, beheaded, broken upon the wheel, but from disobedience [to parents], because they will not submit to discipline in kindness, so that, by the punishment of God, they bring it about that we behold their misfortune and grief? For it seldom happens that such perverse people die a natural or timely death.

But the godly and obedient have this blessing, that they live long in pleasant quietness, and see their children's children (as said above) to the third and fourth generation.

138] Thus experience also teaches, that where there are honorable, old families who fare well and have many children, they owe their origin to the fact, to be sure, that some of them were brought up well and were regardful of their parents. On the other hand, it is written of the wicked, Ps. 109, 13: Let his posterity be cut off; and in the generation following let their name be blotted out. 139] Therefore heed well how great a thing in God's sight obedience is, since He so highly esteems it, is so highly pleased with it, and rewards it so richly, and besides enforces punishment so rigorously on those who act contrariwise.

...149] Whoever will not be influenced by this and inclined to godliness we hand over to the hangman and to the skeleton-man, i.e., death [death the all-subduer, the teacher of wicked children]. Therefore let every one who allows himself to be advised remember that God is not making sport, and know that it is God who speaks with you and demands obedience. If you obey Him, you are His dear child; but if you despise to do it, then take shame, misery, and grief for your reward.
Notice, however, that it is not our job to carry out this sentence of God on those who disobey this commandment. They bring upon themselves misery and grief. So long as we are able, we should admonish and rebuke our fellow Christian brothers and sisters such that they learn to obey this commandment, and so they do not bring the judgment of God upon themselves and upon their congregations. We need to speak the truth in Love.

1 comment:

Tim the Enchanter said...

The words 'egalitarian culture' struck me. Our culture seems to think of all relationships, perhaps due to Marxism, in terms of power. This is unfortunate, as it gives us warped views of marriage, the office of holy ministry, etc. That, coupled with our consumerist culture where we expect the Holy Christian Church to be like Burger King (Have it your way!) is a lethal combination.

The point that Luther makes about God dealing with rebellion against the OHM is also clear. The dreadful thought of God judging congregations made me think of Korah's rebellion in Numbers 16: "Then the LORD said to Moses, "Say to the assembly, 'Move away from the tents of Korah, Dathan and Abiram.' "

In other words, "Listen up you guys who have not rebelled against me by saying really dumb, evil, egalitarian things like this: "You have gone too far! The whole community is holy, every one of them, and the LORD is with them. Why then do you set yourselves above the LORD's assembly?" You folks who did not buy that line, please move your tents away from Korah and his seemingly pious cronies. I want to show you what I think of his idea.

Lord, have mercy! May God bring clear, life-giving catechesis to the LCMS!