A remark often made in pastoral ministry is that it tests all those things that one has never learned in the seminary. With all the knowledge that one receives about Scripture, theology, counseling and practical theology, no pastor ever feels fully prepared for the things he will face as the leader of a church. God is gracious to all of us and most often, the congregations are gracious also.
A friend made a comment in the early years of my ministry that often the people who disagree with us as ministers do not have a disagreement with us, but with God. Since in the minds of many parishioners we are God’s representatives, they feel that they have the right to be upset with God by being upset with us. In our days, people are mostly upset with God in the area of absolutes. I remember cheering one evening as Ted Koeppel, the ABC commentator, said at a Duke University graduation that God gave us the Ten Commandments, not the Ten Suggestions. This seems to be particularly prevalent in the area of sexual morality. One can say that many people have taken the commandment “Thou shall not commit adultery” as a suggestion and then got upset with anyone who suggested that maybe they have broken the laws of God.
In one of my early conversations, I remember listening to a mother who told me that she has adequately prepared her daughter for college. She said it with such certainty that I asked her what she has done to prepare her so well. She explained that she made sure that her daughter was on the pill so that she will finish her four years of college. Being fresh out of seminary, I asked her if by doing so she has prepared her daughter for promiscuity. The clash that evening was between what I considered the divine imperative and what this lady informed me was the contemporary imperative. She sincerely believed that she did her daughter a favor by making sure that she would not get pregnant. The danger was getting pregnant, not becoming involved in immoral sexual acts.
A good number of years later, I met a young lady who never finished college because she became pregnant twice with two different men. She did not consider marrying either nor did she think her children should know who they were. She kept both children, but in her bitterness she turned against her parents, whose commandments she has broken. She argued that if her parents were not as strict, she would not have gone through a sexual rebellion which resulted in her pregnancies. I do not recall that she has ever acknowledged that may be her lack of control could be a fundamental issue.
More recently I have fallen again into my seminary clarification posture. Talking to a parent about his children, he informed me that he does not see any problem if his son’s girlfriends want to sleep over. Since sleep is one of those verbs that cover many things, I asked him what he means by that. “You know what I mean by that Rev. They stay overnight and they sleep with one another. I do this in order to show them that they should not sneak behind my back and to let them know that sex is good. This is the 21st century!”
Is God aware that this is the 21st century? I am sure that he He is! His awareness of the 21st century has not made Him change the commandments that He has given long time ago. The commandments that He gave to Adam and Eve are equally valid today. The commandments that He gave to Moses are still the same. We as parents have modified them to the detriment of our children.