The Church has never been able to free itself from worldly patterns of domination and oppression. What did Jesus and the apostles actually teach?
Date: 11/2/2006 10:56:17 AM ( 17 y ) ... viewed 1830 times
Jesus called them together and said, "You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." (Mark 10:41-45)
Authority and submission is probably one of the biggest influences on the health of the church. Increasingly it seems that those who are considered "authorities" typically ignore the words of Jesus above and instead "lord it over" the flock. And the sheep happily submit to this abuse. As a result we have tyrants where servants should be, and slave drivers where gentle shepherds belong. Any hapless lamb that dares to bleat out of order is beaten with the very rod that is supposed to only be used on wolves. "You're not submitting to my 'covering' over you!" the hired hands scream.
But Jesus instituted something quite different-- a body, an organism with only Jesus as the head or source of life, and everyone else serving each other equally. The so-called "offices" we have become accustomed to don't exist in the NT. Instead, what we see are gifts of the Spirit. Those with the more "presentable parts" such as prophets and teachers are simply to serve the body just as the less "presentable parts" are. There is no pecking order in gifts! We all serve equally but uniquely, as the Spirit sees fit.
The "pastor" is a shepherd or guardian of the teachings of the NT. This person is not a master or ruler, but a servant whose job is to guard against false or inaccurate teachings and to teach the Word to the spiritually less mature and more vulnerable. And who dares to tell God that only one pastor should be in any given group? Is there only one teacher, only one encourager, only one healer? In fact, we see that elders (the spiritually mature and tested), plural, are the ones who function as pastors. Surely there should be (as Paul even stated in his command to "appoint elders in every town") several spiritually mature individuals in any given group.
So do we see the NT teaching here? We are all servants, we are all equal, we are all responsible for the gifting God has given us. The church is not a corporation but a family. Some family members are more mature than others, but the goal of any good parents is to teach the children to grow up, to become parents themselves some day. That's the job of the elders: to make more elders. It most definitely is NOT to lord over the children or demand that we be "covered" by anyone but the Holy Spirit.
One of the common themes in the NT epistles is mutual submission and the priesthood of all believers. We are to love and serve each other regardless of ethnic heritage, social standing, or gender. Self-sacrifce, not self-service, is the mark of the Christian disciple. We must not discriminate in favor of the rich and powerful or against the poor or lowly. No part of the body of Christ can say to any other part, "I don't need you!" And by his example, Jesus showed us that we must submit ourselves even to people who do not have any authority over us. After all, it was he who said "Even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve...". If Jesus could treat as equals his own disciples, can we dare to claim authority over other believers?
Yet, due to an improper view of authority and service in general, there is one group of people who have routinely been suppressed and discriminated against for millenia: women. Society has recognized the equal worth of all humans, but not the church! We no longer shun the Jews or condone slavery, but women are forever held to a secondary status in the churches.
The detailed arguments are covered at my main website, but the basis for all rejection of women's equal participation in the churches is an improper understanding of church structure. If you take away the contrived inventions of the "pulpit", hierarchical chain of command, and "coverings", you are left with the NT church. In that church, as explained, all are equally gifted and equally responsible for "building up the church".
Much of Paul's instructions lose their apparent contradictions and patriarchal bias in the light of who Paul was writing to, when, and why. He did give universal principles to all believers, but he also wrote much about specific problems and specific (and sometimes temporary) solutions. This same principle is seen also even in the gospels, as Jesus said things like telling the rich young ruler he could be saved by doing good works. In context, Jesus was not issuing a doctrinal statement at all, but making a point to the self-righteous. Likewise, the phrase "let he who is without sin cast the first stone" is taken out of context and universally applied where it should not be.
So in this issue of the role of women in the church, let's remember to think of it in the light of what the NT church is and not the traditional church.
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