Almost a Christian

     In the movie 300, Leonidas is leaving with his small band of men to fight the invading million man army of the Persians.  He bids his wife goodbye. As he marches away to certain death she calls out to him, “Spartan!”  Not “king” which he was but “Spartan.”  His glory is not in ruling but in being a Spartan.

  So it is with pastors.  Our glory is not in the title “Pastor” but in the name “Christian.”  Our glory is that we belong to Christ not even that we preach Christ.  If you’re a pastor with a conscience, you probably realize that your glory can’t be in the title “Pastor” because you are not the shepherd of Christ you should be.  Your shepherding, preaching, leading, ministering is flawed.  You know that when Paul asks, “Who is sufficient for these things?”  he means not one of us is.

   Thanks be to God that He doesn’t call us “pastor” in our Baptisms but “Christian.”  Several sons of my congregation have entered into the holy ministry.  Once they are ordained, the question comes up of how they should address me now.  I tell them that one of the sad facts of growing old in the ministry is you run out of people you can call “Pastor.”  It is more of a privilege to be able to call someone “Pastor” than by their given name.  By allowing someone to call you “Pastor” you are giving them a claim on your ministry.  You have a duty to minister to them, to treat them as a pastor should.   We are under no such obligation to our Lord.  We don’t minister to Him; He ministers to us.  “Christian!” He calls us with all the rights and privileges thereof.

   As usual, Luther goes one better here.  At the close of his Bondage of the Will, he tells Erasmus, “You, I confess, are great, and adorned with many, and those the most noble, gifts of God; (to say nothing of the rest,) with talent, with erudition, and with eloquence to a miracle.  Whereas I, have nothing and am nothing, excepting that I glory in being almost a Christian.” See how he looks for no hope, no comfort in being a good preacher, administrator, teacher, or curer of souls? See how he slices through any sort of worry, soul-searching, navel-gazing, or speculating about being Christian enough?  See how he glories in the already but not yet nature of being a Christian in the Church Militant?

   At the end of the day, in being almost a Christian is where we can find solace and peace.  Then when we march off toward that pulpit, that call, that class where we will die as certainly as Leonidas did, we will hear our Lord call from our Baptism that bracing word, “Christian!” knowing that even being almost thatis more than enough.  And from this rediscovered glory, we will do the pastoring that is every bit as strenuous as the fighting done by Leonidas.

About Paul Harris

Pastor Harris retired from congregational ministry after 40 years in office on 31 December 2023. He is now devoting himself to being a husband, father, and grandfather. He still thinks cenobitic monasticism is overrated and cave dwelling under.
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One Response to Almost a Christian

  1. Carl Roth says:

    Amen, Pastor!

    Another wonderful insight from Luther defines our being Christian in terms of the present-tense nature of Baptism; not only that it daily and richly forgives my sins, but that my Baptism is an ever present “Word from God to me”; it “speaks to me” continually, saying, “You are in Christ and are therefore God’s son, with whom He is well-pleased.” Or, as we have taught Grace Ann to sing, “Jesus loves me, this I know, for my Baptism tells me so.”

    Thanks for all your posts to this blog.


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