I decided to sit next to someone I didn’t know and introduced myself as a United Methodist pastor and a PROP board member. We struck up a conversation. She is on the board of something called “Beacon” in Minneapolis. At first I thought it was the bank, but she told me it was a church based outreach organization that works with the poor much like PROP. She was talking about a United Methodist Church that is connected to Beacon and then asked me if I knew Cooper, the pastor. Well, I’ve known Cooper for as long as I’ve been in Minnesota and we’ve had some very good times together. My new friend said, “It’s a small world.” at which point I said what I always do when this happens, which is, “Be careful.” J
After that (before things got started) I stood up to get an extra cup of coffee and almost bumped into the guy behind me in a bowtie, who was also from Beacon. I excused myself and he introduced himself. Before I could get to the coffee he asked, “Are you the spouse of the Pastor at Good Samaritan UMC?” I said, “Why yes I am.” To which he said, “It’s a small world.” to which I said, you guessed it, “Be careful.” J
When this happens people usually take a second or two for the joke to process before they laugh or smile. I know it’s a little pessimistic. I could be saying something like; “Isn’t it wonderful how connected we all are,” or “I so enjoy how we find ways to network with one another.” Or “Who was it that said that there is only five degrees of separation from Kevin Bacon?”
The truth is, “Be careful.” is me. I like knowing the context of the connection we are sharing. You see, I’ve spent more time having good times and eating out with Cooper then I have working in inner city ministry with him. And I won’t go into what it is the expected response to “Your wife is also a pastor.” “Yes she is. And by the way did you also know she’s a great cook,” is what often comes to mind. We all have dual relationships, different contexts in which we know someone. Being sensitive or careful about that is, I’ve found, very important.
I think a lot of people are confusing relationships when it comes to how we share our faith with our friends, our co-workers, or community. Could it be that the best way to talk about the relationship we have with Christ with a friend is to be a very good friend? Or how about being a follower of Jesus, by making your co-workers job a little easier by doing your job well. Or what about listening closely to our community to discover what is needed.
When we take care of most important part of a relationship, when we are “Care filled.” about what really matters, the other usually falls into place.