Originally posted November 3, 2011, at Country Preacher’s Corner. Republished with permission of the author.
It is quite an interesting deal to go to another country that generally has a very high regard for a clergy person.
Here in the U.S. such a thing has diminished over time. At one time, clergy had a place of prominence. Many places of business would cut special deals for clergy because they respected what you did in service to God, and they knew you really didn’t make much in the way of income. Because of clergy abusing such perks, a gradual secularization of society and clergy caught in embarrassing scandals, such things have become much more rare.
The abusing such perks part is one of the reasons I rarely advertise that I am a pastor until I am either asked what I do for a living or until I get to know a person on a deeper level. Sometimes announcing that you are clergy is an automatic conversation stopper and door closer.
A cultural difference
Such was not the case during a recent visit to Cozumel. In fact, it was rather unnerving how some people responded to finding out I was a pastor.
Case in point:
My wife and I entered a shop to do some browsing for souvenirs for our children. In the back of the shop were some framed prints. One of them caught me and wouldn’t let me go. It was titled “Resurrection.” It depicted Jesus rising from the dead, and no words describe can it. I couldn’t stop looking at it, but I also wasn’t going to pay the price for the framed print.
But that’s when I noticed a bin of prints to look through. Sure enough, “Resurrection” was there. I asked the lady tending the store to pull one out for me.
It was obvious from her look that not many tourists actually bought religious prints from her. Her curiosity was more than evident. Seeing this, my wife explained to the her, “He’s a pastor.”
According to my wife, her reaction was sharp. Immediately, she caught her breath and reached out to touch me. I wasn’t looking, so she drew her hand back, afraid that I might be offended. But, as my wife told me later, “she really, really wanted to touch you.”
Not exactly how most people back in the U.S. react when they hear you are clergy.
I personally am conflicted with such a reaction. Part of me is honored at the respect shown. Part of me is taken aback because I’m no different than this woman, other than being called by God to preach and administer the sacraments.
But it’s also a cultural thing. I also know that to honor her culture and her faith, I don’t need to try and tell her, “Look, I’m no different.”
Which is why I told my wife later, “I wish you would have told me what she did. I’d have touched her or allowed her to touch me.” Even though I might have been a little uncomfortable with it, I know it would have meant an awful lot to her. It may have strengthened her faith and given her comfort.
Note what Paul writes to the Corinthians:
For though I am free with respect to all, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I might win more of them.0To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though I myself am not under the law) so that I might win those under the law.1To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law) so that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, so that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that I might by all means save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, so that I may share in its blessings (1 Corinthians 9:19-23 ).
Find a link to Kevin Haug’s blog Country Preacher’s Corner at Lutheran Blogs.