All of us pastors remember a man named Naaman, the high-ranking Syrian soldier. He was influential, wealthy, proud—a man of dignity, courage, patriotism, and military clout. There was only one problem: the man had leprosy. Through a chain of interesting events, Naaman was led to Elisha for cleansing from his dread disease (2 Kings 5:1–14).
It fell to Elisha’s servant to be the bearer of news the Syrian officer did not want to hear. As we read in the account, the high-ranking soldier was offended. In fact, he became enraged. And look who was caught in the crossfire—the servant! The dear guy didn’t generate the news, he just communicated it . . . and boom! The result? Feeling and hearing the verbal blows of disrespect and resentment. You probably know where I’m going with this.
There are times when God’s servant is called upon to confront or in some way tell another person the truth that the individual does not want to hear. (One of the tough responsibilities of the pastorate.) The information may be painful to accept, but it is what God wants said. So the faithful servant says it. Graciously yet accurately. And all of a sudden the lid blows sky high. He is caught in the crossfire. What do you do in such precarious moments? Fight back? Yell and scream and threaten in return? Search for a quiet pastorate way out in the country?
Listen to God’s counsel to servants whose job it is to say hard things:
The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.
(2 Timothy 2:24–26)
What wise counsel! Not quarrelsome, but kind. Not irritated, but patient . . . even when wronged. Not angry, but gentle.
God may be using your words to help the hearers “come to their senses,” which may sound very noble. But, believe me, there are times it’s not a lot to write home about. Hang tough. Stand firm. Never compromise. But remember how Paul said to communicate truth: be kind . . . be patient . . . with gentleness.