Several years ago I was talking with a woman who was troubled by the hypocrisy she felt she saw in her pastor’s life. He encouraged the members of his congregation to live in ways she thought he did not achieve himself.

I suppose this is not an unusual criticism, but it is one I have thought about many times since our conversation. And my response to her would be along the following lines:

I think pastors are some of the bravest human beings in the world – biblically-based, sincere pastors, that is. They do indeed go before their congregations week by week and plead with them, seek to persuade them, to make consistent choices in areas where they themselves are lacking. Listen to your wives and love them. Win the hearts of your children through regular time spent with them. Be gentle and kind to those within and without the body.

And they often miss the mark. Their families know it and their congregations do, too.

But they continue to go public with God’s ways, standards and norms. Even when they know that you know they are inconsistent.

That is very courageous, indeed. And humble, and humbling, I imagine.

But the part of this equation that moves me the most is that, as they share their hearts and aspirations in their preaching, you see that their inmost desire is to please the God they love with heart and soul. They just can’t do it with anything close to perfection. Anymore than the rest of us can.

It is so beautiful to see the desire for holiness. And so poignant to compare the desire with the reality.

That is real life in this age.

I thank God it will not always be this way. And I praise him that, in the meantime, he rejoices with all of his great fatherly heart over such holiness as we do achieve.

He is aware of our sin, yes, but that is not what is ‘most real’ to him about us. Our sin is on its way out, being put to death. But our Christlikeness is growing, and is forever. So that is what is ‘most real’ to him. And, in the meantime, our God is anything but a faultfinder with his children.

May we be as gracious with those men who stand before us in integrity, but human frailty, each Sunday.