“… I will be a father to you,
and you shall be sons and daughters to me,
says the Lord Almighty.” (2 Corinthians 6:18)
Each year on June 29 we commemorate the glorious leaders of the Apostles, Sts Peter and Paul who had to learn to be disciples first before they became leaders within the Christian movement.
St Symeon the new Theologian says somewhere that God did not create masters and servants, but fathers and sons, and that true sons in their turn become fathers. So before we become fathers and give birth to others, we must first become sons. That is to say, we must go through a time of learning, we must learn humility in submitting ourselves to a spiritual father and be ready at times to bear a little shame, humbling ourselves to receive his instruction. And without realizing it, every time we meet with our spiritual father, we will receive something. And over some years—it depends on the intensity with which we live those years—all those pieces will come together and create a beautiful mosaic. That is to say, they will enable us to have a vision by which we may live. (Archimandrite Zacharias, REMEMBER THY FIRST LOVE, pp 401-402)
St Symeon’s comments are a good reminder for how the Church is to organize – not with a leader who is a master over all the parishioners who then are servants, but rather in a more familial way with all of us being God’s children who have a spiritual father rather than a despotic master. The relationship to leadership is to be one of love, not purely obedience or servitude and the leader’s place is not lording it over others, but loving them as a father loves his children. In the Church only one is Lord – Jesus Christ. Everyone else in the Church, including the clergy, are disciples of His. Leadership in the Church is to be pastoral like a good shepherd or fatherly like a good parent rather than forcible like a master who demands subservience from his servants. Children are to obey their parents in love and within a loving relationship, whereas a servant obeys out of fear, force and lack of choice.
For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel. I urge you, then, be imitators of me. (1 Corinthians 4:15-16)