My spiritual director for many years was a retired Presbyterian pastor named Hugh who walked alongside me with patience, humility, grace, wisdom and most of all love. In fact, still deeply engraved on my heart to this day was his constant reminder to me that “It all comes back to love, doesn’t it?”
Time after time I’d arrive deeply affected by an anxiety or issue—most often related to my own work as a pastor—and then once we’d talked it through, listened to the Spirit of Jesus together, Hugh would inevitably point out how all along we’d been circling the same ministry airport and he’d land the plane with those few words, “It all comes back to love, doesn’t it?”
All I could say was, “Yes. It does all come back to love.”
As I look back, I’m amazed how many of the quandaries, dilemmas and problems I faced in ministry were caused by a spiritual amnesia of forgetting the love. Yet, the importance of remembering the love shouldn’t have been so surprising. After all, given what Jesus calls the great commandment – to love God with all we are and have; and to love our neighbor in the same way that we love and care for ourselves (see Mark 12:28-34), it only makes sense.
Paul adds his “!” to what Jesus said by telling the Romans that “whoever loves others has fulfilled the law” for all the commandments are summed up in this one: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Since love does no harm to a neighbor, love is therefore the fulfillment of the law (see Romans 13:8-10).
You’re right again, Hugh. “It all comes back to love.” Love, which I’ve heard defined as wanting the very best for another person and doing whatever it takes (legally, ethically and morally, of course) to see that they get it” is where the plane almost always touches down, where the rubber meets the runway.
I have another friend who lets his life be guided daily by one key question: What does love require of me here? His question is one I use a lot to challenge me and clarify what I am to do next.
I suppose all this is why if I’m asked to sum-up or “define” pastoral ministry what I end of saying is that what pastors are called to do is essentially: to Love God … to Love People … and then to Introduce the People They Love to the God They Love Through Christ Who Loves Us all!
There’s more to say about pastoral ministry. For sure. But if it doesn’t begin with a pastor who is a sinner loved by God, loving other sinner in the same way he or she has been loved by God, all the “tricks of the trade” are just shadow boxing—of no real substance or effect.
They may look good but pack no punch at all.
Hey, it all comes back to love. Asking ourselves each day we seek to serve Christ and His people “What does love require of me here and now?” and then doing it, isn’t a bad place to begin.
Grace and Peace in the Grip of God’s Love.
Richard Herman is a retired Presbyterian pastor with over 40 years of experience in pastoral ministry, who continues to serve God’s people as a teacher and spiritual director. A graduate of Bucknell University (BA) and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (M. Div.), he is certified as a Spiritual Director by Oasis Ministries. He has also earned a Certificate in Spiritual Formation from Columbia Theological Seminary subsequent to completing his D. Min at Fuller Theological Seminary, and is a trained Stephen Leader.
Dick is married to Lissa and they have a married daughter and two granddaughters, who live nearby. He also enjoys taking walks and bird-watching with Lissa, travel in the Celtic lands of the UK, photography (nature and contemplative) and playing with both his granddaughters and a golden retriever named Winnie.
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