“Off on the Wrong Foot,” by Pr. Mark H. Hein

October 21st, 2008 Post by

(This is the next post in our regular columnSpiritual Headship in the Church and Home“)

Did you know that there are really two “sanctuaries” available to every Christian man, woman, teenager and child? Places to go where they can find rest from a wearisome world? Places where servants of the Lord – faithful men and women – will find peace, strength, solace and comfort? It is true. There are two… or… at least… there should be two!

There is, of course, the sanctuary that we look forward to entering, the one in our church where we receive all things good and eternal proceeding from the altar of the Lord. The second “sanctuary” is really the Christian home wherein we find (or, again, should find) the family altar.

The tragic thing is, few homes these days are anything but a sanctuary. They are instead a battleground where tension takes the place of peace, where bickering and fighting erupt over and over again, wiping out any sense of harmony and concord.

And make no mistake about it, Satan is loving it. Why? Because as Christ reigns over all things in this universe, in this world, in the Church and so too in the home, one is hard pressed to see the evidence of this in many homes which claim to be “Christian” homes.

Of course, as we discussed in the last article, Jesus IS Lord. That cannot change, will not change But what is happening in many homes is sad and pathetic attempts to wrestle this lordship from Him. In the process, it isn’t Christ who loses. Rather it is men and women, husband and wives, parents and children who lose and who lose big time… who lose a lot!

In my counseling as a pastor, I frequently meet with husbands and wives, with parents, whose home life has become a living hell. Or if it is not quite that bad, it is at the very least not enjoyable… where there is something clearly wrong… where the inhabitants of the home are not happy… where there is this overall feeling of “just existing.” And invariably, in meeting with these dear individuals, one of them will ask “Pastor, I don’t know how we got into this situation!”

Well, I do. And you do too. You know. It is due to sin. It is due to all of us “getting off on the wrong foot.” In other words, it is due to you and me being born in sin. We join King David in acknowledging, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” (Psalm 51:5)

Thanks be God though for our second birth, that which took place in the waters of Holy Baptism in which and through which we can now continue on “the right foot” as children of our heavenly Father, walking in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.

But you know what? Many people again get off on the wrong foot and it happens when they establish their own home. It happens when they enter into marriage and take on the role of husband or wife. It happens when they take on the role of parent.

“Getting off on the wrong foot” as spoken of here simply means doing something, entering into something, in a way that is not pleasing to the Lord… in ways which are not in keeping with His Holy Word and will. I cannot tell you how many times people have complained to me that there are no good “manuals” for being married, no good “how to” guides for being husbands, wives and parents.

Are you kidding me! We, especially as Lutherans, have the best of resources available to us. First and foremost is of course Holy Scripture. On this point many claim that the Bible only gives generalities about marriage and parenting and what should take place in the home. I politely encourage these dear individuals to please, please look again, read again (if not read for the first time) ALL that God’s Word has to say on these subjects.

We also are so very thankful that we have the Lutheran Confessions (and especially Luther’s catechisms) which provide us with so much guidance and encouragement regarding what takes place under our roof, in our home, in our marriage and in our family. We will talk more about all of this in the next post.

In wrapping this up for now, let me say that the problem of “getting off on the wrong foot” ultimately rests with each individual. You are responsible for your own actions… what you do or fail to do. Still, there are others who by their actions or inactions only add to the problem of people getting off on a wrong foot. And here I am sad to say, fall many pastors!

Just on the subject of marriage, I am curious as to what instruction and catechesis you received from your pastor prior to you exchanging your wedding vows and also what ongoing guidance and encouragement was provided to you. Let me know. I would like to hear from you.

In Christ,

Pastor Hein
St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Lockport, Illinois






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  1. October 21st, 2008 at 09:49 | #1

    Dear Pastor Hein: Beautifully said! Thank you or not only showing us where we have “gotten off on the wrong foot,” but for showing us that our true cure (and it is a genuine cure!) is Christ Who comes to us in His Word and Sacraments. I’m pretty sure that you’re going to get quoted in my parish’s monthly newsletter. :-)

  2. October 21st, 2008 at 18:05 | #2

    Pastor Hein:
    In response, we received one session, mostly discussing the conduct of the service, hymn selection and such. It was during a vacancy and we brought in a retired pastor.

    We thankfully have not required specific pastoral guidance, having weathered the various storms, in no small part to our study and also preaching & teaching from faithful pastors.

    (Yes, you are included in those pastors. Thanks!)

  3. October 22nd, 2008 at 18:21 | #3

    While Scriptures and the Confessions have the answers these people are looking for, a pastor’s supposed to be there as the Holy Spirit’s means to help them recognize the answers for what they are. Indeed, some of these parishioners may’ve looked at the correct passage a hundred times and still not recognized them for what they are until another instructed them much like was the case with the Ethiopian eunoch.

    I do hope you were more specific with these people than the generalities you’ve cited here.

  4. Ross
    October 22nd, 2008 at 23:15 | #4

    Pastor Hein,

    To be honest it has been so long since we were married that I can’t remember much about how our pastor counseled us prior marriage. I recall several meetings and instruction to be in the Word together and some practical advice about communication.

    Unfortunately, we have been apt to get off on the wrong foot many times in life. Thanks be to God He has given us a couple of faithful pastors like you to call us back to Him so that by His grace we might once again walk in step with Jesus.

  5. Pr. Mark Hein
    October 23rd, 2008 at 21:49 | #5

    Thank you to those who responded to my recent post. I would like to assure brother Kuehn that what you are refering to is really a “both/and.” I do encourage people to “search the Scriptures” as well as to study the catechisms and the rest of our Confessions on their own. Even in doing this, it is not delving in “generalities” as we trust in the Holy Spirit’s guidance. In addition, as a shepherd of God’s people, I also take dear souls to specific places in Scripture and in our Confessions and make direct application, connection and ties for them so as to leave no question or concern as to what God is saying and what we, as Lutherans believe.

  6. October 25th, 2008 at 20:39 | #6

    Pr Hein – thanks for that clarification.

    My concerns comes from past experience where laity have been pointed to the Scriptures and Confessions, and then told to figure it out for themselves.

    On your point of “as we trust in the Holy Spirit’s guidance” – isn’t that what the pastor is supposed to be to Christ’s people? Namely the means which He uses to guide and care for His sheep?

    I ask this because I’ve run into too many cases where laity, in studying the Scriptures on their own, come to reasonable, but highly incorrect conclusions, partly due to a lack of discernment on their part, and all the various non-Lutheran influences they’re exposed to out in “the world”.

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