I commented on this passage yesterday (Too Amazing); it’s a passage in which we see very clearly that in Christ, we are members of God’s family, brothers and sisters of Jesus Himself, co-heirs with Him to everything. Indeed, this is a concept which is amazing indeed.
There is so much to be said about this, I could literally post on nothing else for many weeks and only scratch the surface…
Several days ago, I was in a conversation of comments and replies with paulfg, and he made a remark in a reply that really opened my eyes to an angle on this that I hadn’t seen so clearly before, when he mentioned that as a boy he had been taught to “respect your elders and betters”. Ever since then, I’ve been struggling with how to write this in a way that would accurately reflect my thinking, and yet remain in way of love in the process. I’m not sure if I’ve solved that little dilemma, but here goes.
When I was young, my parents taught me to respect my elders, and they did so very emphatically; it was that I must respect my elders “or else”.
Yet in my upbringing, there was no concept at all about “betters”; quite the opposite really. I was taught that no one was “better” than me, and that I was not “better” than anyone else, therefore there should always be mutual respect. I would imagine that some of this is simply a result of my parents’ way of thinking, and some was the result of culture, since in the US we really don’t have a tradition of class distinction as such, at least not in the sense that some are born into privileged status. That isn’t to say of course, that there aren’t people who consider themselves “American royalty” but little do they know that the rest of us are laughing at their delusions of grandeur.
Nonetheless there are many people in America and elsewhere, who for whatever reason, don’t always see themselves as the equals of certain others, and this is really where this post is going, for this is also the case in Body of Christ.
As followers of Christ, each of us is His brother or sister, as we saw in the Hebrews text; each of us has a spiritual gift, and each of us is precious in God’s sight; there are no “betters”. The preacher, by whatever name your church calls them, is not “better” than anyone else; preachers are regular people who put their pants one leg at a time. The same is true for any other members of “clergy” no matter how exalted they seek to appear in earthly terms. The institutionalized church makes much of rank and position, constantly re-enforcing this myth that some are “better” than others, doing a great disservice to the Body of Christ in the process.
I will quickly concede that some are better educated than others, and that some have more experience than others, and yes, that some are more mature than others, but that is a far cry from being “better” than others. In the church, those who are more educated, experienced or mature are supposed to be the servants of all, not to lord it over others. If your church encourages such people to exalt themselves, rather than serving more, then I’m sorry to say that you are in the wrong church.
You might think that because of your history, you are somehow less worthy of God’s favor, somehow less valuable in His sight: You must realize that you are not defined by your past. We all have a past, and not a single one of us has ever earned God’s favor, which is precisely why His favor is called “grace”. Grace is “unmerited favor” meaning that it is entirely undeserved, yet even so, it is just as real.
All of us should respect our elders in the faith, for they have endured much and served many, but in the end, just like you and me, they are sinners who have been saved by God’s grace. They have the same Spirit in them that you have in you, they are brothers and sisters in Christ, but they are not “betters”, and we are all running the same race together as His co-heirs to glory.
When all is said and done in this life, the greatest in the Kingdom will be the one who served others in humility and set all else aside for the cause of Christ. I don’t know about you, but I don’t see many celebrity grandees doing that, do you?