There is a way a man can preach that is very safe for himself and very damaging for the souls under his care. We can preach redemptive-historically and always and ever avoid warning souls of the dangers of sin. Our pulpits will be safe and everybody will go home happy, having avoided any self-examination or repentance or any such negativity. It is simple negligence and all pastors and teachers should guard themselves against such cowardice.
Here is a good example of loving shepherding from the pulpit of John Calvin. He knows his sheep. The following is a short chunk of his sermon on the rape of Tamar, 2 Sam. 13…
…let everyone pay very careful attention to their own situation. Those who wish to safeguard the honour of their house will sometimes seriously ruin it, even though they are quite vigilant in doing good, for it only takes a day, or even a minute, to reverse what they have faithfully carried out for one or two, or even ten years. Hence, the example which we are given here should instruct us, so that we may be on our guard, and may give no opportunity to Satan to find any unguarded breach to enter, but rather close the gap against him, as far as we can do. This is (I believe) good instruction which we should carefully put into practice—if, in fact, we are wise. But in actual fact, we see that it is much more likely for people to give themselves licence. Now how many husbands are there—I am not talking about somewhere far off, but in this very city—who would like there to be dances! Now what does such a request mean, if not that they are wanting to open a bawdy house, which are seen around here only too often? That is the real reason that there are husbands who would like their wives and daughters to dance. Why? So that they can fornicate, which means that they will go to perdition, and receive perpetual shame. Even though we can see that fornication is forbidden before both God and man, how many people, in fact, are there who go to all lengths for their wives and daughters to be in style? Yet we know that this kind of thing tempts people to fornication. Thus, it is obvious to me that they are ultimately wanting to be pimps for their wives, and along with them, they must want to be covered with an awful shame that there is nothing that they could ever do to blot it out.
Hard words, I know. But what sinner doesn’t need hard words to wake us up from our slumber and alert us to the dangers that surround our souls and the souls of our loved ones?
[By the way, if you have not read the sermons of John Calvin, I can’t recommend them highly enough. The commentaries were written for the training of pastors while his sermons were preached to all the people of the city of Geneva. They are simple and strong.]