James 2:1-4 ESV My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts
So here you are. A pastor working in your office, thinking about next Sunday’s sermon. There is a knock at your door and in comes the wife of one of your deacons. She is visibly nervous, but she blurts it out. Her husband is not the man people see and know at church. Maybe she tells you he is an angry man, or perhaps her description matches that of an all-out sociopathic abuser. In either case, you are faced with a real situation here. What are you going to do about it?
Or what if the woman entering your office that day is a 17 year old girl? She has come to talk to you about “things,” and as she proceeds, she explains that she is afraid of her father. He has an explosive temper. You’ve never seen it, but she has — many times. What are you going to do?
Well, before these situations walk through your door, you had better come to know yourself. Let me tell you what “yourself” is going to be tempted to do. You are going to feel a loyalty to the husband/father. Why? Because you have preached many times on the biblical doctrine of marriage, of husbands, of wives, and of their children. Wives and children are to respect their husbands and fathers, right? You don’t want to undermine this by telling them that the guy is absolutely wrong. I mean, what would a husband or a father (a member of your church, mind you) think if he found out that you were speaking negatively of him to his wife or daughter? So you are going to immediately feel this conflict of interest. Plan on it.
You see, pastor, we men have a sense of loyalty to one another. We are men. Part of the same club. And as men, we hold certain powers (often we think we have power that we really don’t have, that God has not given us). We usually are the main money makers in our homes. We are usually physically stronger than our wives and children. It is still, largely, a man’s world in spite of what you hear about the feminist takeover. And in conservative, Bible-believing churches like ours, it is definitely still a man’s world. So we stick together.
Most of the time, the pastor is going to react to all of this by telling the wife to pray, to trust the Lord, and to go home and do her best to be submissive and respectful to her husband. And your prescription for the daughter? “Your father is not perfect. None of us are. But you need to respect him. He is your father.” And you send her back.
We must stop this! It is wrong! We must not fear the wrath of any man. We must seek justice for the oppressed and let the consequences play out as they may. The last time I felt this conflict in me as a Christian woman told me about how her husband had mistreated her, I felt it. I felt it inside of me. It made me hesitate just a bit. I mean, if I took sides here, how is that going to help this marriage? But I have studied and learned a few things in these past few years. I have learned that the Lord Jesus Christ shows no partiality, and He commands us as pastors to do the same. And that enabled me to say to this woman, “Your husband was wrong. What he did to you was wrong. I am very sorry that this happened to you, and I want to say to you that you handled a very hard situation in a very, very wise and godly way.”
And I will do more if I need to. Furthermore, if this had been a daughter, still living at home, I would have told her the very same thing. If that means that a parent is going to come storming down into my office breathing fire because I dared to not take their side, then let the fire come.
I have heard of churches that are so patriarchal that they teach the men that they are the pastors and priests of their families. And that families are really little churches. Therefore, the father/husband is the pastor of that “church” and no one in that family has any right to talk to another pastor without that father/husband’s permission. Let me say that this is cultish, it is tyrannical, and it is completely unbiblical. Obviously, as a pastor of a local church, I need to use wisdom and act ethically, especially when one of the children in my church comes to talk to me. Normally, I do want the parents to know about it and most often it is the parents who have already ok’d it and permitted the child or teen to talk to me. No problem here. But where there is abuse, or where there is a real issue with ongoing anger, and where someone in a family really does need to find some help, do we really believe that God forbids them from going to the pastor or to another Christian in their church to get that help? Certainly He does not forbid it.
Pastors and men: it is time we take to heart that our Lord calls upon us to effect justice and mercy. When we are confronted with a victim of evil, then we are to be the Good Samaritan whether the bandits who beat up the victim like it or not. This is what real pastors do. It is what real men do.