So deeply do we care for you that we are determined to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you have become very dear to us. 1 Thessalonians 2:8
There is a spoken but unwritten rule that religious leaders should not befriend members of their congregations. It can blur roles and create a relational hierarchy in the church. This is often true in the secular world as well. Bosses aren’t supposed to fraternize with their employees. Coaches and teachers don’t befriend the students who are in their care. Doctors, bankers, politicians, and countless other professionally trained people are taught to maintain a professional distance between themselves and the people they serve. Don’t get too close—that would be inappropriate!
How odd this all would seem to the apostle Paul. The goal of all relationships is love and intimacy. Not sexual intimacy—though that is appropriate in certain relationships, of course—but a deep sharing of ourselves with others. People of all ranks and classes and professional standing are called to open themselves to others. As Christians—leaders and laity alike—we are called to friendship and intimacy without setting up artificial boundaries for protection. We don’t need as much protection as we think; what we need is what Paul strived for—intimacy, love, and a mutual sharing of life with others.
Whom do you need to be more open with?
Lord, I claim that I keep a professional distance from others for their safety. If I stand apart from the people I am called to serve, then I won’t get caught up in the emotional challenges that complicate relationships. “It is better for them,” I tell myself. But the truth is, Lord, the boundaries I erect around me are for my protection. If I stand apart from the people I serve, then I don’t have to risk having people know me for who I really am. But Lord, You call us to risk intimacy for the sake of relationship and love and compassion . . . the very things that make life worth living. Help me to take that risk today. In Your name, I pray. AMEN.