At home listening to the presidential candidates, it is clear I disagree with all of them on something and with some of them I disagree a lot. On issues that are important to me, some candidates are way too liberal; others are too conservative. None are just right.
Nearly all engage in various kinds of behavior that is objectionable to me — behavior like deception, manipulation, bulling, exaggeration, diminishing the opponent in order to elevate oneself, misinterpretation and/or misapplication of Scripture, and the list goes on.
Then I quit thinking like an American citizen. I shift my thinking to that of specialized pastoral ministers — those whom I am called to serve at the LCMS Office of National Mission: institutional and emergency services chaplains, pastoral counselors, and clinical pastoral educators.
I remember what it was like when I was actively serving on the floors of institutions and in pastoral counseling offices.
As one serving in Specialized Pastoral Ministry (SPM — not to be confused with SMP, Specific Ministry Pastor), my values and beliefs remain an integrated and crucial part of my identity; but they do not take a lead role in my pastoral care. They are in the background influencing the way I approach and relate to people.
Every minister of the Gospel who is called to serve in SPM knows that the individual who walks into the counselor’s office or lies in a hospital bed awaiting life threatening surgery is one of God’s beloved. The person — Republican or Democrat, liberal or conservative, progressive or regressive — is one for whom Jesus died.
That individual whose race is different, whose sexual orientation is different, whose politics one may find offensive is now in the moment of need the one God has placed into the care of the specialized pastoral minister.
As an ordained or commissioned minister in SPM, one knows that you will be most effective if you lead with listening and empathy while praying for the wisdom only the Holy Spirit can deliver.
If there are words of Law or Gospel to share, God will give them and they will be delivered through the Word that lives within along with the skills and competencies one has been graced to develop (more or less) through the years.
There’s much to dislike about politics. There is even more to dislike about politicians. But I am grateful for the reminder — I trust from God — that the ones I will be voting against and the ones whom I rail against in the privacy of my home are the ones for whom God sacrificed His Son.
I need to remember that.
Rev. Joel Hempel is interim director of LCMS Specialized Pastoral Ministry. Contact Rev. Hempel at 888-843-5267 or by email.