Had a wonderful discussion yesterday morning at Circuit Winkel regarding the teaching on the third use (function) of the Law in the Lutheran Confessions. The brother pastor who was leading this discussion spoke of what he calls a “practical antinomianism” that seems to prevail in our Synod.
In other words, there seems to be a great weakness in our pastoral practice in the area of individual application of the keys. A pastor proclaims publicly from the pulpit God’s wrath against all kinds of sin and disobedience, but fails to follow through with this preaching when he is sitting one on one with a person who is living a sinful life. We let them off the hook, and do not tell them that their souls are in danger if they do not repent.
I think he is right on. As a pastor I know I have failed in this. In my sermons I have proclaimed God’s Word concerning sin, and yet have “provided soft pillows for the impious” (to use the words of Chemnitz) when I am face to face with a member who needs to be admonished. What makes this so hard? What do we fear? We fear the people. We fear their reactions when we tell them that they are living contrary to God’s holy Word. We fear losing them as members. You name it, we fear it.
What we should fear is being enablers. Ezekiel 33 is pretty clear: “But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, so that the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any one of them, that person is taken away in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at the watchman’s hand.” We should be more afraid of God, and more afraid of what may happen to the person’s soul if he or she is not warned of the danger, than we are of that person’s reaction, or that he or she might not like us.
Easy to talk about; hard to do. We think, perhaps, that we are showing mercy, or being patient, or showing love, and that may very well be our motivation. But if we see someone heading down the river in a boat towards a waterfall, towards certain doom, and we smile and wave and act like everything is hunky-dory, how loving is that? It’s sort’ve an earthy analogy, but if I have a booger on my cheek, I’d want someone to tell me, though it might be embarrassing. But we should not be in the practice of pronouncing absolution before the proper time.
I don’t know what the answer is. Well, actually I do know. The solution is to stop being afraid of being disliked, or in my case, being afraid of making people feel uncomfortable, and just speak the truth in love. I pray constantly for the ability to do this, to be faithful, to sound the warning when I see the sword coming, and to speak peace to troubled consciences. God give us all strength to do our duty, even when it makes us or someone else uncomfortable.