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The Greatest Need

Are you a young person pondering a career? Have you considered becoming a pastor
or a Christian day school teacher? This twelve-part series is meant to coincide with the work of the President’s Committee on Partners in the Public Ministry (CPPM). Its aim is to help you think more deeply about the great importance—and many blessings—of the public teaching and preaching ministry.

I read the newspaper every day. The stories that have dominated the news recently have included the President’s impeachment, government corruption, teachers on strike, rising health care costs, illegal immigration, the opioid epidemic, drunken driving, homelessness, and spousal abuse. It can be a bit depressing. The problems facing society seem insurmountable.
There are many well-intentioned people who spend their lives trying to address the needs of society and trying to do what they can to help. I have had the privilege of getting to know many people in the medical field, teachers, counselors, government workers, mentors, and volunteers. They work very hard to make life better for those around them. They are often blessings to those in need. But often, because of limitations placed on them in their jobs, their help is limited as well: temporary and temporal in nature. It is for this reason that serving under a call in a Christian church or school is the BEST JOB EVER!
There are two reasons for this. The first is that we can call a sin a sin. It is hard to address the ills of society without exposing the root cause. The sinful human tendency is to deflect and excuse behavior. It is easier to blame our leaders, our upbringing, or our genetics for the things we do wrong. Society would even have us question the nature of “wrong.” Some would have us clarify our own values, decide for ourselves what is “right” for us, and do what feels good in the moment and makes us happy. By making everything gray, what is there to feel guilty about?
As called workers in a Christian church, we are free to address the real problem. We can avoid the wishy-washy politically correct mumbo-jumbo that can tie the hands of those in other jobs. We can openly share the guidebook that can help people navigate the spiritual minefield of life. The truth is scary, dark, and uncomfortable at times; but oh, so necessary. “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” (Luke 5:31-32)
The second reason you have probably guessed. It is the more joyous and fulfilling part of our work, that which should dominate our teaching—the proclamation of the Gospel. Even as society is loath to acknowledge their sin, they are also opposed to hearing the Gospel. “The carnal mind is enmity against God.” (Romans 8:7) Humans are prideful. They believe if there is a problem to be dealt with, they can deal with it on their own. All man-made religions feed that notion by making salvation, at least in part, dependent upon humans contributing to it. But true Christianity is different. The Gospel of the Bible teaches that grace alone saves. “And if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace.” (Romans 11:6)
It is this message of undeserved love for all sinners that we get to freely share on a daily basis with those in pews and at desks. The message of our sin and our Savior is the most necessary thing in the world to hear.
One Lenten season, when I was teaching grade school, we had a bulletin board which covered most of a wall. On the wall was a large cross. Every school day during Lent the children could bring pictures they had drawn or had cut out that depicted some sin or consequence of it in the world. They would “nail” those sins to that cross. Sin and grace—Law and Gospel—will continue to be the world’s greatest need, in this age or any other.
Joe Lau is a professor at Immanuel Lutheran College in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.