In our Christian endeavours we cannot be effective, as long as we assume that others are superior—as to be the only ones deserving to be listened to. Those regarded as inferior are just as equal and deserving to be listened to, as well. Jesus dwells among Christians, regardless of humanly designated categories.
The conclusion drawn by Peter after having received a vision, requiring him to regard unclean animals as clean, must be sufficient datum for all Christians. The conversion of Cornelius and his household brings a totally different dimension in methodologies of worshipping God.
“So Peter opened his mouth and said: ‘Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears Him and does what is right is acceptable to him’” (Acts 10:34-35) (ESV)
James weighs in on Peter’s statement: “My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, ‘You sit here in a good place’ while you say to the poor man, ‘You stand over there or ‘Sit down at my feet,” have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?” Listen my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him?” (James 2:1-5) (ESV).
I suppose being a judge with evil thoughts can be frightening. The body of a Christian is the temple of the living God. Certainly, one cannot be used by God and yet entertain evil thoughts at the same time. Yet this is commonly observed, as ordinarily denoting the behaviour of some Christians in this world?
Where does all this leave those who believe? Old habits die hard. Apparently, the apostle Peter—having been accustomed to the existing traditions—must have had difficulties in adjusting to this new way of life. This is even though God had spoken to him directly, about the need to eradicate the habit of exercising partiality.
“But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. But when I say that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?” (Galatians 2:11-14) (ESV).
Apparently, Peter knew the truth and he could not argue with the Apostle Paul, who understood the necessity of renewing one’s mind before these teachings could be assimilated (Romans 12:2).
I dare say that today, Christian leaders are particularly guilty of the sin of invalidating their fellow Christians. Invalidating another Christian is not different from invalidating Jesus Christ. See [In Christianity there is no human leadership].
Certainly, Christians would do well when dumping the misconception in that understanding Scriptures needs extensive Theological studies. That assertion is purely false and has got no basis on which to stand.
To understand the things of God one needs Jesus Christ and nothing else. This is why Jesus says “I am the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6). However, I fully comprehend how Christian leaders would struggle with this simple statement.
But the truthful ones cannot have any problem discarding what is wrong, as desiring to be in conformity with their Master. The starting point is in examining the necessity for hierarchical structures in Christian organizations. Where did hierarchical structures come from? Jesus clearly stated:
“But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher and you are all brothers. And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. Neither be called instructors for you have one instructor, the Christ. The greatest among you shall be your servant, and whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted” (Matthew 23:8-12) (ESV).
When carefully looking at the source of this problem, one can easily suspect what is commonly practiced in corporate business world. As if to invalidate Christ’s recommendations, Christian leaders find these ideas workable? But can anyone bastardize Christ’s teachings with those of this world and remain guiltless?
Today, Christianity is characterized with terms such as ‘Laymen’. But there is no such thing as “Laymen,” in the Bible. This is a term casually used to refer to non-ordained believers. See [The authority of Jesus].
Rankings may have traditionally been adopted as convincing among those with authoritarian mind-set. I do not care whether such people comprise the early disciples or not. There is no dispute in that Christ remains the only authority.
Christ’s Church is made up of believers with specific assignments, designated by Christ, not necessarily by pastors. Interestingly—while Jesus never spoke about it—ordination is one of the most important practices in Christianity. Compare this with [Christianity is full-time commitment for the baptized].
The so-called ‘laymen’ take comfort in being dis-empowered. They idolize those conferred with leadership positions, supposing it being a portrayal of piety? Yet, in Christianity, none of the believers is more or less important than the rest, according to 1 Corinthians 12:12-31 and Matthew 23:8-12. Spiritual gifts are peculiarly allocated to respective members, according to Christ’s prerogative:
“But I say to every one of you, through the grace given to me, not to have an over-high opinion of himself, but to have wise thoughts, as God has given to everyone a measure of faith. For, as we have a number of parts in one body, but all the parts have not the same use, So we, though we are a number of persons, are one body in Christ, and are dependent on one another; And having different qualities by reason of the grace given to us, such as the quality of a prophet, let it be made use of in relation to the measure of our faith; Or the position of a Deacon of the church, let a man give himself to it; or he who has the power of teaching, let him make use of it; He who has the power of comforting, let him do so; he who gives, let him give freely; he who has the power of ruling, let him do it with a serious mind; he who has mercy on others, let it be with joy.” (Rom. 12:3–8 BBE).
Here Paul accurately states: “But I say to every one of you, through the grace given to me, not to have an over-high opinion of himself, but to have wise thoughts, as God has given to everyone a measure of faith (Verse 3). Paul is highlighting a common mistake found with human beings.
Previously, Paul had advised of a need to transform the mind according to the will of God, rather than being conformed to worldly principles (Romans 12:2). Having an over-high opinion of oneself, is evil, when considering that Jesus claims to be the only instructor, teacher and Rabbi (Matthew 23:8-10).
Paul cannot be attributed to conferring leadership structures in Christianity. Speaking of Philemon’s slave, Onesimus, Paul clarified: “So, if you consider me a partner, welcome him as you would welcome me” (Philemon. 1:17) (NIV).
But, was Philemon an ordained Apostle, to be equated in partnership with Paul? Let alone Philemon’s former slave, Onesimus, for whom Paul was pleading with Philemon for equal treatment. Anyone can ignore these Scriptures at his/her own peril. The same Paul was inspired to state:
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28) (NIV). “…Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free but Christ is all and is in all” (Col. 3:10–11) (NIV).
Christian groupings include those affiliated but not yet subscribing to membership. Gospel authors, Mark and Luke, can be used as bearing testimony to this. These two were not ascribed as being the disciples of Jesus.
Yet it is their commendable writings that benefit us, today, in our Christian standing—as we had no privilege of meeting Jesus. Church organisations should not succumb to being moulded according to leadership patterns in this world.
There is no reason to fight over positions, but allowing the spirit to lead, on filling positions at any given time. Such considerations of hierarchical structures in Christian organizations cause vast departure from Christ’s teachings. See [Pastor—The centre of confusion in Christianity]
Who ordains people in positions of authority? The Apostles were erroneous in assuming that responsibility when ordaining Mathias (Acts 1:12–26). God had been developing Paul, instead. At that point, their responsibility had been to wait for the Holy Spirit, as Christ had ordered them to do (Acts 1:4-5).
Paul may also have been misunderstood, when instructing Timothy and Titus to ordain leaders. Were these ordinations implying consideration of seniority? If so, that was not the criteria used to ordain Paul, on his unsavory mission to Damascus? Was Jesus wrong by omitting such criteria, if it is necessarily important?
However, the two leaders cannot be given fault, if their behaviors constituted genuine errors. Their defence would be that in their teachings they clearly articulated the fact that Jesus was the only authority in Christianity.
The common mistake with most Christians is to mix up the Old and New Testaments. There is no need to be obsessed with the ordinances of the Old Testament. Christ was clear in that He had to be listened to in every detail (Luke 6:46).
Some Church leaders have the audacity to take the role of Christ, appointing or demoting people in God’s church. The would-be pastors are often treated scornfully, while those befitting appointments—according to human evaluations—get ‘promoted’?
What confusion! This can only be corrected when true pastors do their job, allowing Christ to work through them, without consideration of being appointed or not being appointed by the so-called human authorities. Order is possible where Christ is involved See [Only in Christ is order recognized].
However, God approves of things done on His behalf (Matt. 18:18). But even wrong decisions––leading to destruction—can be bound in heaven. Christ does not impose His will on humans—free to choose between submitting to Him, or not. [Jesus is the unifier of Christians and humanity]
While Christ taught extensively about the need for Christians to abide by His word, He does not compel anyone to obey Him. Where people reach an agreement—as common with organizations—they either go to hell together or go to eternity together. That is as long as they either bind themselves in abiding to Jesus’ word or not abiding in Jesus’ word.
Nevertheless, seniority in any function enables ability to handle difficult issues for novices. Futility lies in expecting favourable treatment, on projects sponsored by God. The parable of Jesus in Matt. 20:1–16 could not have been recorded in vain.
When God invites, it is not about how capable one is; but how willing the person is. This is why Jesus advised against practicing righteousness in order to be seen by others (Matt. 6:1). All glory belongs to God. [Could a Christian organization be another god?]
Each member carries the responsibility to pray for everyone, including those in leadership positions. Those without leadership positions ought to respect leaders, just as everyone else needs respect.
Leadership positions are held on behalf of Christ, whose followers are expected to avoid Pharisaic traditions (Matt. 16:6). There are so many Christians who can also be in fellowship for negative reasons (Matt. 13:30).
However, when considering what Paul said in Romans 12:3-8, all members of God’s church hold leadership positions. Anyone is a leader in his/her area of specialty. When the function of Jesus is carried out by anyone at any given time, it is Christ leading—leaving no room for anyone to be despised.
Take note that I said, “When the function of Jesus is carried out by anyone, it is Christ leading.” Serious Christians will always check to be certain whether anything said by anyone comes from Christ or not (Acts 17:11).
In Matthew 18:1-6, Christ appears as giving a stern warning against leaders who are susceptible of offending the brethren. Christ works in human beings who are categorized as Christians.
And Christ, personally, lives in those Christians. But the so-called leaders can, actually, be in danger of offending those that Christ would be using—as Christ, personally, dwells in those Christians.
The responsibility of Christians is to preach the gospel in love, without taking comfort in doing what is not mandated by Christ. However, those causing division, like the impostors, should be dealt with, in accordance with specific guidelines (Matthew 18:15-18). But Christ remains in control.
I suppose we have helped leaders to avoid the trap of offending others. How about those susceptible to being offended—by those forewarned with millstones around their necks? Apparently, succumbing to being offended, exposes one to the danger of condemnation as well (Matt. 12:31).
The reason why Christ inferred heavy millstone on the necks of offenders, is that the offended get exposed to condemnation, as well. Suppose the insulted person refuses to take offence? Obviously, that nullifies consideration of heavy millstones on other people’s necks!
This is why greater reward awaits those refusing to take offences (Matt. 5:11-12). In Christianity we are interdependent, but no-one is greater. Only Christ knows who and at what time to put someone in a leadership position.
Jesus inferred leadership positions as being for those known only by His Father (Mark 10:40). But the function of Church leadership is bestowed on Jesus alone—choosing to use anyone, at whatever location, by whatever method, at any given time. This calls for self-denial on those concerned.
We are all under grace to remain humble. What could keep Christians in humility is constant awareness that all glory belongs to Christ. This assertion should be especially attractive to those bestowed with leadership in church organizations.
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