In re-reading The Reformed Pastor by Richard Baxter recently, I was again encouraged to pray for and love those I help shepherd. It is far too easy to have the ministry become more professional than personal. Having a truly biblical, tender love for those in our care will especially help us in our ministry to them in times of difficulty and sin. Baxter has words of encouragement for us here in the following passages:
The whole of our ministry must be carried on in tender love to our people. We must let them see that nothing pleaseth us but what profiteth them; and that what doeth them good doth us good; and that nothing troubleth us more than their hurt. . . They should see that we care for no outward thing, neither wealth, nor liberty, nor honour, nor life, in comparison of their salvation . . . When the people see that you unfeignedly love them, they will hear any thing and bear any thing from you.
This tender love, in Baxter’s estimation, is not one that overlooks sin, however, but deals with it, because we know how damaging it is to the souls of those we love. He goes on to talk about how to interact with those who are in sin and disobeying God:
Pretend not to love them, if you favour their sins, and seek not their salvation. By favouring their sins, you will show your enmity to God; and then how can you love your brother? If you be their best friends, help them against their worst enemies. And think not all sharpness inconsistent with love. Augustine saith, “Better it is to love even with the accompaniment of severity, than to mislead by (excess of ) lenity.” (Richard Baxter, The Reformed Pastor, Banner of Truth, p. 117-118).