The Two Churches (Part Two)
In this second part of this series, we are going to look at what I call “Church Two.” We will rehearse what I said about Church One and then give some commentary on how Church Two would be different.
Church One – Some of its characteristics
Now, I know a little something about Church One. I’ve lived it. I was quite small when I left Church One. (about 8 years old in fact) I’ve also noticed a few similarities that my Church One has with lots of other Church One’s I’ve heard about. Let’s look at some of these:
1. Headed by a singular charismatic leader who rules Church One with an iron fist from the top down – Everyone here can often just cut and paste the name of their own charismatic church leader here. My charismatic leader was Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong, the Pastor General (love those military terms) of the World Wide Church of God. [Note: if you are presently in a denomination where the head of your church chooses to identify himself by the term “Pastor General”, this could be an immediate signal to leave the church immediately.]
How would Church Two be different?
1. It would still be headed by a singular charismatic leader, but that leader would first and fore mostly not be a human. It would be Jesus Christ.
2. From an administrative point of view, a leader of Church Two should follow the characteristics and orientation in leadership found in Jesus’ own teachings. Note the following:
a. “A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest. And he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves.” (Luke 22:24-27 ESV)
b. Peter also said: "Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being examples to the flock" (I Peter 5:2,3).
c. Comments: There is no hierarchy here. Here we are supposed to imitate God who serves us. Remember this text:
d. “You [God] prepare a table before me [David speaking for humanity] in the presence of my enemies;” (Psalm 23:5 ESV)
e. Note also: “On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined. [Another text shows that God serves us!] And he will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the LORD has spoken.” (Isaiah 25:6-8 ESV)
f. God is a being who “serves” us, not through lordship, but through friendship.
g. “No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.” (John 15:15 ESV)
h. Finally, let’s not think that no administrative roles are relevant. They are, but they should not override the philosophical approach of friendship and family found in the above mentioned texts.
“Overseers were not to be rulers in an aristocratic sense. If apostleship were rank alone, this strongly implies rulership and lordship over the flock. But Peter said this should not be. Even though the English version of Hebrews says to remember the ministers "which have the rule over you" (Hebrews 13:7, 17, 24) the Greek words really meant "those who are leading you." Ministers are leaders - but leaders who are servants, not aristocratic lords or commanders! Another point. Though in English ministers are sometimes called "masters" (James 3:1) the Greek is really "teachers."” (Prof. Ernest L. Martin, Principles of Divine Government, Foundation for Biblical Research; Pasadena: CA, 1974)
2. Church One leaders lead lavish, lifestyles of luxury with the need to have massive resources at their control to do “God’s work” including all types of physically properties, cars, and even lear jet airplanes.
How would Church Two be different?
I saw the following on the Huffington Post and it seems reasonable that a national average for a Protestant pastor would be about $40,000 USD. This seems reasonable. In some geographical places, it might be a little more and others a little less. Obviously, in some places it might be a bit more and in others, a bit less. A Catholic priest would obviously need less money due to being single.
"Even before the recession, most spiritual leaders of small towns and big cities across the United States earned meager salaries, with annual pay for Catholic priests and imams ranging from $25,000 to $30,000 and the average Protestant pastor making $40,000 a year, according to a recent survey."
The following is a wonderful description from Rev. Kenneth Bailey from his book Paul through Mediterranean Eyes.
“Paul contemplates his apostolic band and sees a small group of traveling preachers who are hungry, thirsty, poorly dressed, wounded and homeless. To top it off, they have to pay their own way. Paul appears to be borrowing vocabulary from a list in Isaiah 58:7. In that text God speaks, telling the people: 'Is not this the fast that I choose:' . . . Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him. Paul’s Greek word for “ill clad” (v. 11) also means “half-naked.” The Hebrew phrase in the above text for “homeless poor” is ‘anawim marudeem which includes the idea of the wandering, homeless poor. Isaiah’s text describes the apostles. For decades Paul had no permanent address, no place to call his own. Three out of the five descriptive words Paul selects appear in Isaiah’s list. Paul’s choice of words also links cameo 4 to the great “self-emptying” passage in Philippians 2:6-8. Now here, to a lesser degree, we see the self-emptying of Paul. (pg. 149)
Paul was a brilliant scholar. At the same time, he was able to “dumb down” his presentations of the gospel and could appeal to the uneducated, tough, immoral flotsam of Corinth. Working as a poorly dressed, itinerant tentmaker would have thrown him in with the trades’ people of the city. He gained a following… (p.177)
At the same time on occasion Paul does accept financial aid, not only for the “poor in Jerusalem” but also for himself (Phil 4:14-18). Travel costs appear to be in a special category for Paul as we shall see in our examination of chapter 16. Paul’s working principle seems to be: I will not accept financial assistance for serving you, but you can help me serve others. Perhaps the key phrase is the question “Am I not free?”
If Paul accepts financial assistance from the Corinthians, they will have considerable control over him. If he only accepts help in reaching out to others, they will have a much harder time telling him what to do. Paul is here not only making “the gospel free of charge” for the benefit of the Corinthians. He is also maintaining his own freedom to obey the promptings of the Spirit to go where he is called to go. This is one of the critical freedoms built into an authentic theology of mission. (p.251)
The Book of Amos is famous for its defense of the poor and powerless against the rich and powerful. This theme permeates his prophecy. Paul is deeply concerned for “the weak” (in conscience) and the poor who “have nothing” and are humiliated by the rich (8:9-13; 11:22). (p.505)
Paul urged people to imitate him as he imitated Christ: “I urge you, then, be imitators of me.” (I Cor. 4:6); “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” (I Cor. 11:1); Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.” (Ephesians 5:1) “And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit” (I Thess. 1:6) And what did Christ Himself do?
I can also point to the following, which demonstrates the immense poverty of Christ. As an example, I want to point to one statement made by Christ Himself and its place in the historical context of that period. I believe that it relates to this issue of Him being single. Let’s look at it:
“And seeing a crowd about him, Jesus commanded to depart unto the other side. And one scribe came to him and said, Teacher, I will follow you where ever you go. And Jesus said to him, the foxes have holes, and the birds have nests; but the Son of Man has not where to lay his head.” (Matthew 8:18-20)
Now, this passage is one we find in Matthew. Matthew is a book written from a decidedly Hebraic orientation. That means that the culture of the book, its themes, style, and tone is really oriented to Hebraic thinking and if we keep this in mind when reading this book, it will help us to understand it better. [Note: Of late, I have been doing research in Matthew and have been amazed at the things that I have seen – very exciting ideas to help show us just who Christ was and how He really relates well to humanity as that “Suffering Servant” of Isaiah 53. Will be having much more to say on this going forward as I do more research.]
Now, getting back to the passage, Jesus seems to quite clearly state that He at that moment in time, using His own comparison logically, did not have a residence, as did those animals. Now, maybe He did have a home in (or near) Nazareth, but are we sure He did? How can we know? Isn’t it interesting that while Christ was just near death, He said: “When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple standing by whom He loved, He said to his mother, Woman, behold, your son! Then said he to the disciple. Behold, your mother! And from that hour the disciple took her unto his own home.” (John 19:26,27) [Note: In the Greek language, the word “home” does not appear, but we understand it from the context that Mary was now to be reckoned as the mother of that disciple and he was to be her son and this meant that she would now be living with him.]
Perhaps after that time referenced in Matthew, Christ and His mother may have had to abandon their home wherever it was due to the fear they had of people seeking to kill Him. Note that after the raising of Lazarus from the dead, Christ retreated to near the border of Samaria (John 11:54) because of a fear of being caught and killed. Had He had a stable residence, at that time, it would not have been safe to go there for fear of being apprehended. By Jesus’ retreat to near the border of Samaria, He may have been positioning himself near that area in case He needed to flee into Samaria quickly. Rousseau in the book “Jesus and His World” mentions this exact point in the article on Ephraim which John 11:54 mentions. (p.87)
Now, this passage in Matthew has that Hebraic orientation that I talked about and we in fact know that the ancient Hebrews had some teachings about married life, housing and the role that having a home and a family played in one’s life. They have left us some very interesting quotes to consider which not only bear on the passage in Matthew 8, but also concern the issue of whether or not Jesus was married. Note the following:
“From Deuteronomy 20:5 the Talmud derives the lesson: ‘The Torah teaches the correct procedure: a man should first build a house, then plant a vineyard, and after that marry.’” (Sotah 44a)” (Cohen, Everyman’s Talmud, pg. 162)
This procedure is quite good advice really and we note it even today here in Jerusalem. It is very common for men here today to have to provide the means to marry. A home, a car, holding down a good job, being able to provide for a family, etc. Without these things being in place, men just do not marry and women will not think of marrying someone who cannot provide these necessities. Generally speaking, their families will not allow it or will frown on it strongly and put pressure on a girl to either wait until the man is in a better position to provide these things or urge her to move one to someone else. [Note: The average marrying age for Christian men in Jerusalem these days is in their early thirties as they are forced to wait until they have the financial means to afford to get married.]
We can consider this issue when looking back on that passage in Matthew where Jesus indicates that He, at that time, did not have a place to rest his head. If He did not have a stable home, there is almost no conceivable way that He could have been married. It would seemingly have been a violation of the cultural norms at that time.
Cohen also continues with the very interesting following statement:
“A wife meant a home; hence the saying, ‘a man’s home is his wife’ (Yoma 1.1), and Rabbi Jose said, ‘Never have I called my wife by that word (e.g. – He never spoke of his wife as “his wife”), but always ‘my home.’ (Shab.118b).” (ibid.)
This is a lovely and deserved tribute to the wife of Rabbi Jose. It is a bit poetic and Middle Eastern culture is prone to such speech. Even today, I am always happy to hear my brother in law talking to his wife calling her “Ruhi,” (my spirit), or “Elbi, (my heart) or “Umri,” (my life). These types of terms are used quite commonly even today and we can see from the Rabbi’s statement, he chose to call his wife “Beti” (my home). To him, having a wife was synonymous with having a home. The two were inseparable.
Now, once again consider that passage from Matthew in light of this statement. Jesus said he did not have a home at that time. Chances are that if he did not have a stable home, He also did not have a wife either.
Finally, my late father commented also on Christ’s poverty saying: “Paul recognized that Christ was very poor.” Though he was rich [while in glory before coming to earth], yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich" (Il Cor. 8:9). Christ was well aware of what it was to be poor. Some of us have been, or still are, poor, but so was our Lord. He knows what we all go through because he has experienced it himself.” (Ernest L. Martin, The Degradation of Christ: FBR Pasadena:CA, 1980.)
To be continued... SSM