by St. Tikhon of Zadonsk
“Because the pastor speaks the Word of God, do whatever he teaches, pay diligent heed, all Christians, and do it. Concerning this, the apostle says, “Obey them that have rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they must watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you” (Hebrews 13:17). The pastor is the messenger of God who is sent to you by God, and He proclaims to you the way of salvation, and invites you in the name of God into His eternal Kingdom. For this reason, revere him as the messenger of God who proclaims to you such great good things, and who invites you to them. “He who receives you, receives me,” says the Lord (Matthew 10:40). Receive, then, and revere the pastor as the messenger of Christ.
Because the pastor provides for the common good, and as he looks after you as well as for all, so that all may receive eternal salvation, then love him as your father and benefactor, and be grateful to him. You call him “Father,” that is well: He begets you as well as others, not to the temporary, but to eternal life. Then love him, as so great a father to you. You love your own father according to the flesh, how much more ought you love this “Father.” As he takes care and provides for all, and for you, do not leave him in need, but help him in his requests and supply his needs, that he may have time to take care and look after the common good. Thus by mutual love and benediction the common good will not be without success.
Because many among the people are not men of goodwill, and as they do not love pastoral reproof but wish to live according to their own will, they invent and broadcast slander and ill report against the pastor. Then when you hear such slander and ill report against the pastor, do not believe it and guard your lips, lest you say anything about it to anyone else. Otherwise you will sin gravely, as you will return evil for good, which is a great iniquity. It is a serious thing to slander and dishonor a simple person, how much more so a pastor. From this, great discord follows among the people, and disregard and disobedience to the pastor, and thus his labor may end without profit. Pay careful attention to this, avoid evil gossip against the pastor. Most of all do not spread evil gossip about him, lest you feel the avenging hand of God upon you. If you see in the pastor such weaknesses as occur even among the people, do not be scandalized and do not judge him, but understand that the pastor is a man, just like everyone else, and that he has the same weaknesses as do the rest of the people. Because the pastor is subject to many temptations, and the Devil, and his evil servants war against him most especially, therefore he also needs the special help and support of God.
Then you, and all the people as well, must pray to God for him that He may help him and strengthen him. The happiness of the household depends on a good householder, the happiness of soldiers depends on a good commander, and the happiness of the sailing ship depends on a good helmsman. Pray then that the pastor may be wise and good, and that Christian society may be happy. When a pastor himself does not do what he teaches, but lives contrary to his teaching, heed the word of Christ which He spoke concerning such pastors; “The scribes and pharisees sit in the seat of Moses, therefore all they bid you observe, that observe and do, but do not imitate their works, for they say, and do not do” (St. Matthew 23:2-3).
[An excerpt from “Journey to Heaven,” Jordanville, NY 1991.]