I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.
~ John 15:15
One of the hardest discussions I have ever had with another clergy person had to do with whether or not you can be friends with those you have been called to pastor. The response I received was, "No, you really can't be their friend. Pastors come and go, and you must be able to walk away so that the next person called to serve the flock can do so without any issues."
I have to admit, I have failed miserably at not being able to cut all my ties with all the people from all the churches I have served in my life.
I am not afraid to say that I consider myself a friend to many of these folks, and while I may not be preaching from a pulpit where they attend each Sunday, I still know when they are ill, are celebrating birthdays, and anniversaries, among other things. I have, however learned, that there are boundaries created when a pastor leaves the church, which are healthy, but no longer being a friend is another issue.
In the Gospel of John, Jesus tells the disciples, you are no longer my servants, you are my friends. For me, it makes complete sense. He has called them to follow him. He has spent both waking and sleeping moments with them. They have all been thrown out of communities together, as well as, broken bread together with others.
They are in relationship with one another, and it is a bond that will carry them through eternity, just as we journey together.
Oh, I know that there will be those who will completely disagree with me, and say that they are completely professional and see their role as somehow different from being disciple as well. I have met those who use their status in society, their color, and even their collar to seperate themselves from others as if to proclaim some higher purpose.
I am reminded that we have all been created by the same God, and are created to do God's will in the world, while being in relationship with one another. There is no one person greater or lesser than the next. And that if we are all called to love one another, then we must learn how to be friends first with one another. Jesus tells each of us, "You are my friend." If the Messiah can do that, then we should be able to do the same.
Stay in God's grip!
G. Todd Williams
Rev. G. Todd Williams lives in the Houston metro area and is a Hospice Chaplain at Essential Hospice, Webster, Texas, and is an ordained Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) pastor.