The first great commandment for the Christian is to love God, the second great commandment to love one’s neighbor as oneself (Matt 22:34-40).
The first great commandment for the Christian pastor is to love God, the second to love one’s neighbor, and especially one’s flock. A pastor must represent Christ to other people, principally in love.
N. T. Wright gives a wonderful 2-minute video on what he wants the next generation of pastors to learn (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lluSgq8sK3E). He gives three points:
1. Know the Bible backward and forward in the original languages.
2. Spend serious time in prayer.
3. Love people. Of the last he says: “…I want you to learn how to love people. Some people [who are pastors] are naturally loving and they may need to learn other dimensions. Some people are a bit shy and don’t quite know how to do it or they don’t terribly like people that much.”
I believe that Prof. Wright would agree with what I’m going to add: that Christian love is not something one picks up naturally, or by learning other dimensions, or (and I say this as a natural introvert) by getting over one’s shyness. Christian love is a supernatural manifestation of God’s presence. This means that it may be experienced only if God is at work, and where God is not already at work, love is a counterfeit:
1 Thess 4:9 – “Now about your love for one another we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other.” This speaks of God’s inner teaching.
Col 1:3-5, 8 – “We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all God’s people— the faith and love that spring from the hope stored up for you in heaven and about which you have already heard in the true message of the gospel…[Epaphras] told us of your love in the Spirit.”
And of course, Gal 5:22 – “the fruit of the Spirit is love.”
Q. Is this pastor loving? A. There’s no way to tell from the picture.
Despite what our culture insists, love has nothing to do with being an extrovert; it has everything to do with the Spirit’s work in us, no matter our “personality type”.
If it is authentic, Christian love is a miracle. It is on a par with Jesus giving sight to the blind man or the apostles healing the lame man. The path to be a loving person is to admit one’s own weakness and total inability to manufacture agape, and to throw oneself upon God’s mercy.
Those who take the other route will find no power for carrying out God’s plan. Mere courtesy, self-confidence, friendliness, warmth, personality, and – heaven help us all – platform charisma, all of these without the presence of God’s love are an illusion, a sham and a deception. They will serve only to harm your people and cheapen the gospel.
“A Pastor’s Love for the Flock,” Gary Shogren, PhD in New Testament Exegesis, Seminario ESEPA, San José, Costa Rica