“…refusing to do evil to their friends.”

In particular you will be called to be present to your people when their lives are in crisis.  Do not be surprised, however, because you have been present at such times those to whom you have been present will find it difficult to love you.  Because you are a priest you will be welcomed by people even when they are without protection and have no way to disguise their vulnerability.  In the midst of the crisis you will be loved, or at least admired, for your presence and care.  But after the crisis is over you will discover the very intimacy established by the crisis between you and those to whom you were present now means they fear what you know of them.  You have been allowed to see truthfully who they are which will often mean that they want as much distance from you as they can get.

To sustain a community capable of having the lies that constitute our lives exposed, to sustain the practice of speaking the truth from the heart requires, as our Psalmist suggests, requires the creation of a people who do not slander one another.  Rather they are people with a genius for friendship refusing to do evil to their friends.  Nor do they reproach their neighbors because they honor all who fear the Lord.  They stand by their oath even when it is not to their advantage, and they do not lend money at interest or take bribes against the innocent.  The Psalmist seems to suggest these are the necessary conditions for a community of trust because without trust we are incapable of being truthful about ourselves. And if we are incapable of being truthful to ourselves we will eventually discover that we cannot be truthful to one another.

-Stanley Hauerwas, “Because It Is True”, A Commencement Sermon at Seminary of the Southwest (2012).

This is the best thing directed to pastors (though, in truth, to all Christians) I’ve read in a long time.  Hauerwas’ insights into the particular temptations of the pastoral vocation are keen and his vision for a truth-telling community is especially hopeful.  Our young church is just beginning to see the seeming impossibility of something as simple as regularly telling the truth to each other.  In this sermon Hauweras once again points to Jesus as the only hope for such truth-telling: “Only in the person of Christ are we encountered by the one who can unmask our illusions without utterly destroying us.”

Author: David Swanson

Pastor of New Community Covenant Church in Bronzeville. Collecting signs of life.

2 thoughts on ““…refusing to do evil to their friends.””

  1. Hi Dave!

    Hauerwas was introduced to me by an Orthodox priest blogger (Fr. Stephen Freeman) who, I believe, studied under him at Duke University. I read one of his more recent publications, *Living Gently in a Violent World,* not long ago, and it resonated deeply with my Orthodox faith. The post you have above where you quote Hauerwas talking about the need to slow down and be quiet in order to be really present with others is also something that resonates. Met. Anthony Bloom in his wonderful little book, “Beginning to Pray” (and many other Orthodox sources) makes it clear this has to be something we do, first and foremost, with ourselves and God (the ability to be truly present with others in a saving way flows directly out from this). “We love because He first loves us,” and Jesus’ command to “abide” in Him in John 15 come to mind.

    With regard to the difficulty of truth-telling in community, I think this is part of the reason why the practice of private Confession with one’s priest came into use within the Orthodox Church (as there were carnal and nominal Christians that entered the congregation after the legalization of Christianity, who couldn’t be trusted to do the right thing with the knowledge of others’ sins). You can’t tell all your deepest hurts to just anyone, but you have to tell them to someone in the Presence of Christ in order to be healed.

    You might also enjoy this piece of wisdom about getting along in our communities of faith:
    http://fatherstephen.wordpress.com/2012/06/22/when-taking-cover-is-not-enough/

    Grace and peace to you and your family!

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