Thursday, October 13, 2011


It is becoming increasingly clear to me that so many problems in the church are the direct result of the church adopting the world’s understanding and definitions. Nowhere is this more evident than in our understanding of power, or to use church parlance “authority”. Christians are often asked if they are “under authority”, i.e. submitting to a properly ordained church official. We instinctively see those who exhibit worldly notions of “power” as more important in the church, directly the opposite of what Jesus taught (“the least shall be greatest”). When many Christians look around the church, they see worldly power structures dressed up in religious language and often accept them without question.This should not be so among us.

There is a certain hermeneutic narrative that sees Jesus coming not just to redeem a people but also to shake the power structures that exist. He is a redeemer in the times to come and a liberator in the here and now. If that is so, Jesus has been a pretty poor liberator. Slavery, while frowned upon in polite societies, is alive and well in the shadowy world where so many Christians dare not tread. People have been ruled and dominated for the two thousand years since the cross. His people have been martyred millions of times, sometimes by pagans and often by others who claim to be Christians. Wars rage, children starve, people are oppressed.

The world says to the enslaved: rise up, cast off your chains and grab your freedom! Jesus came to set the captives free but not by overthrowing their masters. Rather we are told:
Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a slave or free. (Eph 6:5-8)
The world says to women: get out of the house, have a career, be independent, put off marriage and children (but not sex of course)! Flaunt your sexuality, use it to your advantage. The Bible honors women who wash the feet of Jesus with their hair and tears. The Bible honors motherhood and keeping the home (Titus 2:3-5) and calls on the adopted daughters of the Most High to submit to their husbands as to the Lord (Eph 5: 22), to dress modestly and avoid external adornment (1 Tim 2:9).

The world says that people with more education are better than those with less, people in the spotlight are more important than those on the margins, people who make more money and have more influence are to be catered to and those without are to be ignored, people with titles and prestige are to be respected and those without are to be obsequious to those that do. Even the disciples thought this way, as demonstrated in the request of the mother of James and John for Jesus to place them in positions of prominence and prestige on His left and right (Matthew 20:21).

The church embraces that view. The greatest among us are those who wield the most worldly power, i.e. the clergy and the academic. The “best” churches are those with this best buildings, the nicest amenities, the most famous pastor. We might decry "celebrity" or "rock star" pastors but the ones we like are kind of immune to that criticism. We follow men because of their titles or worldly success or education and often overlook the quiet servants among us who simply love others.

In light of this, it is little wonder that discussion about the church, about ministry, about gender, about wealth and poverty, etc. are so messed up and contentious. We are embracing the standards of the world and seeking strength through power, self-sufficiency and prestige rather than strength through weakness, humility and dependence. We seek the sort of acclaim and recognition that we should count as worthless. We revere men the world says should be our leaders instead of following men who simply live the life of a disciple. We talk a big show about honoring motherhood and marriage but we teach our daughters to approach life in a manner little changed from what the world does. We read the words of Jesus and nod appreciatively and then go right on living in a manner pleasing to the world.

We can't have conversations that make Scriptural sense until we stop trying to live as Kingdom citizens with worldly values.

1 comment:

Aussie John said...


"We can't have conversations that make Scriptural sense until we stop trying to live as Kingdom citizens with worldly values."

You're so right, yet I cannot help but wonder how many claiming to be "Kingdom citizens" really are what they claim.

Is it possible that many have been led into a place of false security by the easy believism which is commonly preached?

If that is the case "worldly values" are to be expected.