Pastors’ wives bear relational burdens and outright attacks that most of us cannot imagine. It makes sense that many are tempted to pull back into a self-protective stance of withdrawal. But Scripture explicitly calls them, and all of us, to something far better than the evil of “speaking cordially with our neighbor while harboring malice in our hearts” (Psalm 28:3). As Christians, we are called to love (John 13:35) and unity (Ephesians 4:1-3).
But what does that look like when we are hurt in the church?
First of all, in view of God’s mercy (Romans 12), we fix our eyes on Jesus and learn from him the appropriate, humble, heart attitude (Philippians 2). From that position of utter dependence on the Lord and gratitude for his grace, we pray, study, and get help from wise and spiritually mature people to learn how to exegete both Scripture and people regarding the painful relational conflict we are facing. Are we called to forbear (Romans 15:1) and unilaterally forgive (Proverbs 19:11)? Or does love of God and neighbor compel us to have that difficult conversation and confront (Galatians 6)? How do we confess (Matthew 7:5)? When do we escalate things and get help from others (Matthew 18)? What are we really promising when we “forgive just as in Christ we have been forgiven” (Colossians 3)?
These questions require wisdom from heaven (James 3) and thus, we need the body of Christ. We need the church. We need friends. Real friends. Friends we enjoy! Friends we can trust. Friends who protect, comfort, and confront us. Friends who speak truth at a level that mere acquaintances never can.
So let’s pray for friends and take steps to intentionally build a few close, trusted relationships. It will take effort and we may get burned a bit along the way, but it is worth it. Not only will we enjoy the delights of faithful friendship, but our genuine unity will also be proclaiming to a watching world that “the Father sent the Son and the Father loves them” (John 17:20-23). That is the “Last Apologetic” according to Francis Schaeffer—our testimony of love that can never be thwarted.
This is guest post by Tara Barthel and is part of Pastor’s Wife Appreciation Month. Tara is the coauthor of Peacemaking Women: Biblical Hope for Resolving Conflict.
Tara Barthel, a former director at Peacemaker Ministries and “recovering lawyer,” currently serves her family as a homemaker while regularly mediating and speaking at conferences and retreats. In between chasing her golden retriever and her two young daughters, Tara has produced one video series (Living the Gospel in Relationships) and is the coauthor of two books (Peacemaking Women and Redeeming Church Conflicts). Tara is currently enrolled at Reformed Theological Seminary where she is pursuing a master’s degree in religion. Tara and her family are members of Rocky Mountain Community Church (PCA) in Billings, Montana. Find her online at TaraBarthel.com.