“Can I give you a quick call?”
I woke up to the text and knew something was wrong. I replied back and connected with them over the phone. As I listened to my friend, they were hurt due to someone else’s action. This someone else is also a friend of mine, and the friend I was talking to on the phone knew that. (Got that?) I continued to listen to my friend, and wondered how best to navigate the relational dynamics at play. At the end of the conversation, we prayed together. I prayed some more after the phone call as well.
I had heard gut-wrenching anguish from my friend, and had also seen evidence before the call to support what I had heard from them. Still, I didn’t want to pick sides. I wanted to help Friend #1, but I also wanted to help Friend #2. My approach to them would be vastly different, but motivated by love and concern.
It can be tricky to do this, and the more I pastor the more I come across scenarios like these where I have friendships/connections with individuals who are at conflict.
One of my favorite passages from the Bible is when Joshua meets a heavenly being.
When Joshua was by Jericho, he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man was standing before him with his drawn sword in his hand. And Joshua went to him and said to him, “Are you for us, or for our adversaries?” And he said, “No; but I am the commander of the army of the Lord. Now I have come.” –Joshua 5:13-14a (ESV)
In a situation where I’m pastoring friends in conflict, I don’t want to pick sides between them. I want to make sure I’m aligned with God before talking to them.
When pastoring a friend, I want to do what is best for them by God’s standards. Not by my standards, or theirs. I want to do what is right. If I do what is right by God’s standards when pastoring two individuals in conflict, then it will be in the best interests of both individuals. It may not seem like that to one or both, but it will be.
It’s complicated. It’s tricky. It’s not fun. It sucks. Yet, out of love I for both individuals, I enter into the tension so I can help them out. By being a pastor, and a friend.