When I was in college, I met a couple of girls who had boyfriends that were mean to them.
These boyfriends would say unkind things to their respective girlfriends. They would belittle them in mixed company. They would break plans at the last minute to hang out with their sideburn sporting bros. At parties, they would shout across the room to their girlfriends, "hey babe, get me a beer." And when these young ladies returned with a foaming cup of watery brew, they often found their boyfriends flirting with other girls.
Sometimes these girls would complain to me about their mean boyfriends. I would ask why they were dating them, and each girl would respond, "Deep down, I know he's a really great person. He just needs someone to bring that out in him."
At the risk of sounding judgmental, I don't think these girls had a genuine Christian desire to lift another person out of the pit of his sinful and self-destructive ways. If that were the case, they would have visited prisoners or volunteered with at-risk youth. Rather, I think they were filled with pride. I think they just wanted to believe that they were more amazing and special and spectacular than every other girl in the world because they could accomplish something that no other girl could-making a mean boy nice through the power of their love.
When I became a pastor, I met a couple of pastors who were convinced that they could convert people who, quite vocally, didn't want anything to do with Christianity.
These people would say unkind things about Jesus. They would belittle their believing aunts and uncles at family reunions. They would refuse to attend baptisms of friends' children. And on the rare occasion that they attended a service, they would roll their eyes during the liturgy and play on their smart phones during the sermon.
Sometimes, these pastors would lament the hatred that such people expressed for the Church. But whenever I suggested that this was simply because the Gospel is foolishness to those who are perishing, these pastors would respond, "No, deep down, these people really want to be Christians. They just need someone to get rid of all the negativity and stuffiness that turns them off to the Church."
At the risk of sounding judgmental, I don't think these these pastors had a genuine desire to see people converted. If that were the case, instead of making their own personalities the center of worship and preaching, they would have made Christ crucified the center, as it is only through the proclamation of that bloody Word that Christians are made. Rather, I think these pastors were filled with pride. I think they wanted to believe that they were more amazing and gifted communicators than every other pastor in the world because they could accomplish something that no other pastor could-making hardened hearts believe through the power of their love.
Whatever happened to those college girls with mean boyfriends? I'm sure that some probably have mean husbands now. But I hope that all of them saw the folly of their pride and grew up. I hope the same thing for every pastor convinced that "God can do all things through me who strengthens Him."