Wandering the savage garden…


One of many distressing things about the church and its internals is the use and abuse of power.

It’s be easy to look at priests’ abuse of children, and see those as mere aberrations – or things isolated from “our church,” which is surely an excellent place with no such abuses.

But this view, an example of an external locus of control, is not always accurate.

Mankind’s story in the context of God (or is it “God’s story in the context of Man?”) has always involved power. The book of Genesis is filled with examples of the struggle for power and security: Adam, Joseph’s brothers, Esau, Noah.. even Abraham. Over and over again, you have Man claiming power that is rightfully God’s, in the attempt to control his own destiny and fate.

It isn’t limited to Genesis, either. The Perushim and Zadokim (“Pharisees” and “Sadducees,” respectively) struggled for power among themselves; their struggle for power caused them to miss the Messiah, to cause Him to be put to death. (This was in accordance with prophecy, so it’s not like they had a whole lot of choice, I suppose, in the end… they’re to be pitied rather than hated.) Herod slew the innocents out of a lust for the preservation of power.

The examples are numerous – going through them would include most of the Bible, I think. Ahab, Jonah, Job, Paul, Peter, Hezekiah, Absolom, Josiah, Ezra, David, Solomon… it goes on and on, covering the saints and sinners alike.

However, as I started with, the use and abuse of power goes far beyond stories, or even those unfortunate events we see in the press.

Power rules Christian life, as well. Paul’s writings, for example, are often used to control the structure of modern churches, by reading his edicts concerning the proper qualifications for deaconship, or about marriage, celibacy, gender roles, personal finery, riches, all kinds of things.

The key to reading these, for me, is to keep in mind that power isn’t necessarily absolute, nor is it permission to rule. Power, in the Christian life, is about responsibility, not control.

For example, my wife is to submit to me, as stated by Paul. But that doesn’t mean that I’m “over” her (and, if you’ll pardon the pun, I’ll never ever be “over” my wife, nor do I have any desire to be.) My wife serves me as I serve her, as the Bride of Christ serves Him and as He died for us.

However, while Christ serves as a perfect example for us and our relationships, we are not perfect. It’s here that absolutes turn into weapons.

For example, can a woman teach a class of men? Or serve as a deacon? Or perhaps serve as a pastor?

I’d have to say it depends. I have no issue, personally, with a woman of God teaching me; I’d welcome teaching no matter from whom it was. I have no issue being led by women in worship or in any other endeavor; those whom God has appointed are those whom I accept.

And that’s the crux of the issue. If a woman happens to be the most suitable candidate for the position of deacon, and God leads a church in such a way that a woman is selected… rock on. I don’t say this to say that every female deacon (deaconess?) is “right” or “approved by God” – only that I don’t see God as being limited in who He chooses to place in a given role.

Therefore, would I accept a female pastor, as well? Again, I don’t know – I suppose it’d be an oddity to me, but then again, that’s natural conservatism at work. I’d have to evaluate the specific situation. God has certainly chosen women to lead in the Bible (D’vorah, Hadasseh), so why would He be unable to do so today?

Again, that doesn’t mean a blanket acceptance of every woman in a given role – or of every man in that same role.

The key is to be mindful of the role of God in our lives, and to recognize that His power is greater than anything else; that which He chooses to be is not ours to fight.

And our natural bent and desire for power does exactly that.


Originally posted on January 5, 2012.

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