Friday afternoon, after completing a shut-in visit, I went to the store to pick up a few things. As I was checking out, the cashier noticed I was wearing a clerical engaged me in conversation, eventually leading to the question of whether or not I was planning to attend the concert and related festivities in town that evening. I indicated that I would not be, to which she replied that was probably a good thing, as there would be a lot of drinking and carousing, and was no place a pastor would want to be. I replied that I was not going because it was too hot out.
This incident struck me however, why was this woman who did not know me at all, trying to protect me? Did she think that since I was a pastor the sight of alcohol and carousing and salty language would cause me to shrivel up and die? Imagine if I had told her some of the salty language I heard growing up in the Bronx; or about the drinking that occurred on the Seminary campus in St. Louis.
My initial reaction was one of disgust. I am 30 years old, and I am perfectly capable of determining which places I will and will not go to, based not on the fact that I am a pastor, but based on the fact that I am a baptized child of God. As a baptized child of God, I know what is expected of me in such situations. If you are at such an event, refrain from the use of such salty language, if you drink don’t get drunk, and do not engage in anything that will get your picture on the evening news. I know these things not because I am a pastor, but because I am baptized.
Which led to my second reaction: if you don’t think it is such a good idea for a pastor to attend an event, maybe you need to reconsider whether or not you should be attending such an event. If you think the waitresses at a restaurant dress in an unbecoming way and that a pastor should not be there; well maybe you should not be there either. And if you are embarrassed by the salty language that is used when a pastor is in the room, maybe you should not be using that language to begin with. And if you immediately run to turn off the lewd and rowdy music when a pastor enters the room, maybe that music should never be on in the first place.
Because here is the thing: you are also a baptized child of God, and you are called upon to live a holy life based on that baptism. It is not just the pastor who is called to keep the Ten Commandments; you have also been called to keep them. It is not just the pastor who is called to avoid sins of the flesh; you also have been called to avoid them.
Because while your pastor may not be in that restaurant with the scantily clad waitresses, or in the bar drinking, or listening to that less than desirable music; God is most certainly present. You may think that you are all alone, and not a sole knows what you are doing; but God is there with you. Your actions are not done in darkness, for God shines His light right on you.
So forget about worrying whether or not your pastor is around, and forget about protecting your pastor from the world. The fact is that he, like you, is a baptized child of God and he knows, just like you do what is expected of him. Because whether you are in a room full of people you know, or if you are hiding in the corner in a room full of people you do not know; God is present.
Now that sounds like a threat, but it is really a promise. For when you do find yourself in those situations where your baptism is challenged, when you do find yourself in places where the sins of the flesh are tempting you; you can take comfort and courage from the fact that God is with you, and that you are not alone.