The pastor and the pat answer
I ran across a recent article in Leadership Journal by Brian McLaren, a noted writer on Christianity in a postmodern context. McLaren is also a pastor and he discusses the experience of being a pastor in dealing with questions on homosexuality as he writes
I hesitate in answering "the homosexual question" not because I'm a cowardly flip-flopper who wants to tickle ears, but because I am a pastor, and pastors have learned from Jesus that there is more to answering a question than being right or even honest: we must also be . . . pastoral. That means understanding the question beneath the question, the need or fear or hope or assumption that motivates the question.The full text of the article is here.
You don't have to agree with all McLaren writes in order to see the issue. And I bring it up because you too, gentle readers, have cause to be pastoral to friends and family. Sometimes the first response needs to be to listen, really listen, before filling someone in on where we stand. Often we need to understand where someone is coming from first.
It is amazing what the question "Why do you ask?" brings up. Often, abortion or homosexuality or some other presenting issue is not the main point. And even if it is the real issue, the person might not be asking about what you think about "pulling the plug on someone" just to hear your opinion, but because they are struggling with a real-life decision, or the results of one. And if you give the pat answer, you may never get to hear the real struggles someone is facing. The pastoral response takes more time, but it also takes the other person more seriously.