Where would we be in life without friends?
In Theological College we were taught that having close friends with people in our church was unhelpful. I can understand that. There are times when being close friends with people in your church can be problematic. There are times when you need to lead, and when they dont like the direction of your leadership….it is difficult. Your friends, close friends, cant just up and leave your church because they are upset with you, although they might.
But the alternative is far worse. We should be travelling with, journeying with, those who are our friends. Church is meant to be an adventure, a battle, a march towards the holy grail…and you have to do it together.
The verse from Galatians is good, “bear with one another’. Part of journeying together means putting up with each others faults and follies, even when the other cannot see how their selfishness or bias or blindness….is hurting the friendship and the community of believers. But that is part of the ‘bearing’.
I am fortunate…I have some really good friends as part of my church, and I would never want to change that…my lecturer was wrong. They may cause me pain, and I might cause them pain…but ultimately, I hope we can bear with one another and learn what Christ meant when He said to forgive and be patient.
I am fortunate…I have some really good friends who are not part of my church, or any church for that matter. They keep me grounded, they reassure me (not with words but action) that my whole identity is not in being a pastor, and they would be my friends if I was still selling exhaust components….some of them have no idea what a pastor is, some of them know…and generally speaking cant stand ‘pastors’.
Either way, having friends is a risk…but the alternative is far worse. I know a lot of pastors…and I look with despair as they approach the end of their ministry, and realise that their whole identity and all their social standing and significance is tied up with their identity of being a pastor. That is sad.
It is also sad to see a 55 year old male come to the realisation he has no friends, and the opportunity to make some seems to have gone….it hasn’t, but it is going to take a transformation of character, attitudes and beliefs about themself to change that.