We should be kind.

We should be kind. cover for post

This morning I opened Twitter to find a bunch of Christians (ultra right-wing types) criticizing my favorite pastor, Tim Keller. Keller has always proposed a winsome service approach to doing ministry in New York City instead of a “culture war” posture. So what was the crime of Keller today that got some Christians all fired up? His crime was quoting this verse:

The Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome, but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to the knowledge of the truth. 

2 Timothy 2:24-5

These verses teach pastors how to interact with unbelieving critics and philosophies that sometimes make their way into the church. Many who claim to be Christians think it is some sort of virtue to mock, despise, and to be rude to those who oppose the gospel and Christian ethics. Tim Keller quoted this verse as a mild correction to Christian leaders who take a pugnacious approach. Let’s look at a couple truths in this passage as you think about the type of Christian leader you should follow.

Not quarrelsome: A good pastor is often agreeable and humble. Paul taught that we should reason with people, not argue with them. We are always trying to win people, not arguments. Good pastors don’t feel the need to be the devil's advocate on everything.

Kind to everyone: This is tough. Kind to attackers, accusers, deceivers, and grumpy church people. A pastor’s ministry should have the aroma of the kindness of Christ. This doesn’t mean that they need to have the same teddy bear personality. It just means that each pastor should lean into the kindest parts of themselves by the Spirit’s power. It’s not about personality, it’s about obedience.

Able to teach: This means that a pastor has to have a comprehensive knowledge of the Bible, Christian history, theology, ethics and also helpful: he should be in tune with the issues of the day. A good pastor not only knows these things, but can transfer them to others, which is what we call teaching.

Not resentful: This means that the pastor does not allow himself to live in resentment toward God. Believe me, the ministry brings up plenty of opportunities to resent Him. It also means that we don’t resent Christians in the church, even the most difficult ones. Even the most unreasonable ones. Finally, it means that we don’t resent the world for being the world. We understand that the world will not have our ethics and until they have our Jesus. 

Obviously, I think Tim Keller is a great model for ministry. I think the people attacking him are not only misled, but dangerous. They are basically calling ministers of Christ to stop acting like Christ and to start acting like furious shock jocks. I think I will follow Jesus and Tim Keller on this one. I hope you will, too. 

Grace and peace,

Pastor Harvey