The two most important things a pastor needs to do is to love God and love people. Often the loving of God comes easier than the love for people. Some people are easier to love than others.
What does it mean for us to love our congregations? It doesn’t necessarily mean that we are filled with emotion or that every person in our congregation is our best friend. But that doesn’t get us off the hook for loving our people.
When many people think of love, they think of 1 Corinthians, the love chapter. These words are so powerful: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)
We likely read this during weddings more than any other setting. But the relationship between husband and wife was not the original context. Paul was writing this to remind a church of how they are to treat one another. This should be the attitude of each member of the church but the pastor has the responsibility to model this kind of love.
The love chapter presupposes that there are some people who are hard to love. There is no situation that we might find in our congregation that is not covered by Paul’s teaching. Paul doesn’t expect us to pretend that everyone is easy to love, but he does expect us to act in love, no matter what we may feel.
A successful pastoral ministry is not possible if we do not love our people.