“In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I solemnly urge you: proclaim the message; be persistent whether the time is favorable or unfavorable; convince, rebuke, and encourage, with the utmost patience in teaching. For the time is coming when people will not put up with sound doctrine, but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own desires, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander away to myths. As for you, always be sober, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, carry out your ministry fully. 2 Timothy 4:1-4 (NRSV)
The time is already here where people won’t listen to sound doctrine, though now as always, there are plenty of teachers and preachers out there catering to the itching ear crowd. There is a place for teaching on judgment, but it’s not to “scare people saved” with the threat of hellfire. However, fear of hell doesn’t save- only the grace of God in Christ does.
This being said, a Christian pastor who is doing his job isn’t always going to be popular, and the sermon should make you squirm from time to time. The point is not to blindly agree with everything that comes down from the pulpit, especially when it challenges my understanding of orthodoxy, but to be challenged- to think, to pray and to invite discourse with fellow believers. The pastor’s job is to preach, teach and challenge us.
What he is saying should inspire serious prayer, study and reflection- and more often than not get us right where we live. “Christian” is not a synonym for “nice.” We learn and grow by facing those not so nice areas in our life and conduct and letting the Holy Spirit work in and through us to make those things the way God intends for them to be.
Sometimes being nice is seemingly un-Christian, especially when it is necessary to tell that truth or give that wake-up call.
I pray that the Holy Spirit will give us the discernment to accept right teaching even when it seems contrary to convention, even when it’s not comfortable, because it calls us out on our own sin, and to remind us that we are people of integrity and fortitude. We don’t need our ears scratched. We need the truth, even when it hits us where we live. Even when it offends.
“As for me, I am already being poured out as a libation, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. From now on there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” 2 Timothy 4:4-8 (NRSV)