Faithful Christians are going to face increasing inconveniences and sacrifices. But it’s a cost they incur in their lives. If people are going to listen to the advice given and pay those costs, we’d better be sure that the advice is biblical. Despite the significant responsibility, it’s a blessing to be brought into the questions that concern people, and to seek to help them with the answers. We need that in the Christian life.
I do not remember who said it, but someone once said: “When I was young I gave advice to everyone fearful no one would listen. Now that I’m older I give advice to no one fearful everyone will listen.” There’s a note of wisdom in that self-experience. The Bible praises and commands the need for counselors and counsel. But those most equipped to give advice are those guided by humility in this work of stewardship.
I thought about this yesterday as a piece of advice from a well-known evangelical pastor got attention (and ire) on social media. The pastor was retelling how a grandmother came to him and asked if she should attend the transgender wedding of her grandson. He asked her if her grandson knew of her commitment to Jesus and that this commitment meant she couldn’t countenance his choices. The grandmother said her grandson did, and so in this scenario the pastor said she should go to the wedding and even bring a gift. Immediately, the pastor added the challenge of these kinds of questions saying: “It is a fine line, it really is. And people need to work out their own salvation with fear and trembling.”
There’s few living pastors I respect as much as this man — he’s a gifted preacher and sincere shepherd. However, I strongly disagree with the advice this father in the faith gave in this situation. I think it’s wrong. But I’m not interested in assessing the question itself. There’s plenty of pushback happening and some of it is more useful than the mindless ranting of social media warriors.
Rather, my concern in this moment is thinking about the role of pastoral advice in general. With humility, this pastor recognized the responsibility in speaking counsel to people in the situations of life. When people ask elders these kinds of questions it’s because they need help — their consciences need shepherding. Shepherding the conscience is a significant pastoral responsibility.