As insecure Christians, we are somewhat prone to enforcing our own separation between things that are not actually separate. A simple example is the “laity” and the “clergy”.
(I have a lot of quote marks in this passage, my use of them denotes that I don't necessarily agree with the terms within them)
I do understand the difference that is being highlighted in this distinction, but I do want to emphasize that my understanding of the new testament is that we are all saints, believers, a combined priesthood, all are called and gifted, and given to different tasks and responsibilities, yet all are one in our devotion to our Lord Jesus.
In this “division” of laity and clergy, we set up a system where, on the one hand, teaching, prayer and Christian “ministry” (and many other things) are handed over to certain people to "take care of" (the clergy) while the rest get on with their “practical” lives. A bit like being too busy to garden, or cook, or care for your children, so these tasks are handed over, or at least shared with others, who are paid for their involvement. It is a practical arrangement, but also man made.
Yes, God did set aside the Levites for the priestly duties amongst the Israelites, but it is interesting that Jesus was not a Levite, yet he is the true high priest, above all other priests.
The new testament church, on the other hand, was given its apostles by Christ, and then their leadership was handed on to elders at each geographical region of Christian gathering.
But leadership did not mean that the leader was responsible for all the “religious duties".
The gathering of Christians was actually a family gathering, with all given to all the tasks of God's purposes in our world.
So every believer, saint, Christian, has a personal relationship with Jesus, and is responsible to follow him in all that he has for each us, both as individuals and as members of a gathered cooperating group of Christians. (I am deliberately substituting for that well known “c” word)
It is interesting that some denominations, eg, the one I belong to, does “ordain” “ministers” yet accepts that the local group continues to meet and function for months and years without an “ordained minister” when none is available for geographic, financial, or other reasons.
So the division of laity and clergy in this situation, seems unnecessary.
Yes, there are some members that are less likely to attend on Sundays when no “officially ordained” minister is present. And others will only approach the minister, when a funeral or wedding is needed, so that the “religious” necessities of life are taken care of “professionally". These are examples of what I believe are sad outcomes of the presence of an unnecessary dichotomy.
But surely “ordination” is biblical?
As far as I can see, all people were prayed over, as they were sent to perform any task that was required. This is what Christians do.
Of course, with ordination, those that are in the roles of “ordained minister” are able to be financially cared for, for their role, which is only right, as per the “ox treading the grain”, yet Paul was able to support himself, and never claimed any of what was rightfully his.
This is not the dichotomy I intended to discuss.
I realised on Sunday, as we alluded to the old testament “heroes” that we are prone to hold on to images of people we think would glow in the dark with holiness. Yet these people were simply people of faith, like us. (James 5:17)
In saying this, I do not wish to remove any of the honour and respect we owe to these people, yet we are to honour each other in the same way.
Finally, I want to mention the “altar”, or “stage”, or “raised platform” or whatever “special area” we keep for the “specially gifted people”.
Often that is the place where the division of laity and clergy is clearly marked.
I am not suggesting we ignore the importance of acoustics, Jesus used a fishing boat to allow his teaching to reach as many as possible, but he was also pressed upon by crowds and children, and when the disciples tried to prevent them, he set them straight.
We are not all called to be preachers or teachers, yet we are all prepared to give an account of the hope that is in us, whenever the opportunity arises.
Are you laity or clergy? If you are laity, then what gift are you not using to benefit your fellow believers? If you are clergy, then are you willing to serve others without recognition? In humility, not “lording it” over others?
Matthew 19:6 (NIV) So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”