I did not enter pastoral ministry out of admiration for the preacher on “Little House on the Prairie.” He, like many pastor figures portrayed on television, was a rather daft, clumsy character who had his fat dragged from the fire many times by the lead character of the show, Pa, who, by the way, had really great hair. We have come to picture the pastor/priest figure as passive, clueless, and misguided.
But there is another picture in the Bible. Whether it be Aaron’s running with his censer, taking his stand between the dead and the living to check the plague (Num 17), or Phinehas’ zeal in turning away God’s wrath by piercing the fornicators with a spear (Num 25), priests could also serve as God’s warriors.
My own definition of the function (don’t confuse this with office) of priest is one who serves by facilitating the relationship between God and man. Christ, as our high priest, is the ultimate fulfilment of this role. He goes to bat for God, speaking and serving honestly and truly, without compromise. And he goes to the mat for man, actually becoming the sacrifice that he offers for man’s atonement. He represents God to men, and he represents men to God. He fiercely battles the stubbornness of men’s hearts against God, and he bravely absorbs the wrath of God poured out against men. This is pictured graphically in Scripture by the sword: one which is thrust to his heart, confirming his death (Jn 19:34), and one which proceeds from his mouth, expressing his life and authority (Rev 1:16).
We, as priests (1 Pet 2:5), would do well to “cowboy-up” (to miserably mix metaphors). Whether we like it or not, we have a role in introducing God to man, and man to God, through the Gospel, that word which is “living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword” (Heb 4:12). We need to engage in this activity with ferocity and bravery, even as we seek to serve like Christ, sacrificially.