A young man from our church was standing just outside the hospital smoking a cigarette. As I came closer, an expression of sheer panic came over his face. Quick as a flash he stuck the still lit cigarette in his pants pocket and turned to me with an innocent smile and said, “Hi preacher. How are you doing?”
I’ve never preached on smoking so why did he do that?
Aren’t you curious about what happened next? Would smoke come out of his pants? Would he grimace in pain trying to squeeze out the burning tobacco with his fingers? But nothing happened. After a few minutes, I said good-bye and moved on. Why did he do that?
Why do people say and do such strange things around preachers?
On special occasions such as wedding receptions where alcohol is served, invariably people will hide their drinks when I walk by. One young lady literally tossed her drink, glass and all into the trash can as I walked in the room. Why? Are they afraid I might turn them in? That’s an interesting question!
A young adult Sunday school class once discussed whether it was okay to drink. Everyone agreed that alcohol was acceptable taken in moderation. Several admitted that drinking could also be a poor witness to someone who struggled with alcohol addiction.
Then I asked, “Since it is okay to drink; would you be concerned if you saw me taking a drink?”
“Oh no,” they all said in horror! “Pastors can’t drink!”
Why do we expect our ministers to live by different standards?
I first announced my desire to go into the ministry at our company sales meeting. There was a long eerie silence around the room. Obviously, everyone was shocked. One sales associate in particular looked extremely upset. After the meeting, he followed me back to the office, closed the door and began to apologize for his occasional use of profanity. “Why didn’t you tell me you were going to be a preacher? I would never curse like that around you!”
I wanted to respond: “Why? I’m still the same guy you talked to yesterday or am I?”
What is it about us preacher types that make everyone so uncomfortable?
Paul gave wise advice to a preacher: “Teach these truths, Timothy, and encourage everyone to obey them.” (1 Timothy 6:2) This is the basic responsibility of a preacher: teach the truth and encourage others to obey. The best way to teach is by example. So, even though we are human and make lots of mistakes, we preachers are called by God to teach the truth, to lead by example and to encourage others in their walk of faith. So, preachers are meant to be different but not like nit-pickers looking to judge but more in the vein of leaders looking to inspire and encourage.
Paul goes on to say, “Pursue a godly life, along with faith, love perseverance, and gentleness. Fight the good fight for what we believe. Hold tightly to the eternal life that God has given you, which you have confessed so well before many witnesses.” (1 Timothy 6:11-12)
Pursuing a godly life is not just for preachers. We all have a responsibility to fight the good fight for what we believe. All Christians claim to be different and our best witness is how we behave. As a minister, I try to set a good example, plus teach and encourage you to pursue a godly life.
Next time you see me; don’t stick a lit cigarette in your pocket or throw your drink in the trash can. That’s between you and God. Just like you, I struggle to be a responsible and faithful Christian.
Remember Jesus never commanded us to be perfect; He simply said, “Follow Me!”