“Therefore, whoever in the church wants to become an eye and a leader and master of others, let him become an ear and a disciple first. This first. The one who has not been tempted, what kind of things does he know? One who has not had experience, what kind of things does he know? One who does not from experience know what temptations are like, will transmit not things that are known, but either things that are heard or seen, or what is more dangerous, his own thoughts. Therefore let him who wants to be sure and wants to counsel others faithfully first have some experience himself, first carry the cross himself and lead the way by his example, and so he will be made certain that he can also be of service to others….” – Martin Luther
For too long we’ve agreed to the “top down” structure in the church. The “strong”, those who have convinced themselves (and everyone else) that they have it all together, teach the weak. These superior rule followers never seem to miss a beat, struggle, slip, or fail. If they appear to be spiritually dapper we deem them qualified them to lead us.
“Give us a king!”, we shout. “Put him through seminary and make sure he’s well informed by the books and therefore respected enough to speak into our lives.” We don’t question his authority as he begins to lord it over us much less the ethicalities he has begun to thunder at us because we believe in those pieces of paper hanging on his office walls. We will listen to him, despite our reservations, because he’s been handed all of the correct answers. Or has he?
Truth be told, the spiritual “elitists” are just dangerous idealists at best. Whether they realize it or not, they teach from the perspective of Law – expecting that people actually CAN live up to the demands they hurl, all the while, blind to how they fail to meet them as well- ironic. They forget the fact that those under them are but fallen and what is “ideal” just isn’t possible (enter the cross, stage left). Because they lack experience with temptation and failure, the elite don’t really understand the theology they’ve paid so much money to learn and therefore, as Luther suggests, not actually qualified to counsel others faithfully.
I’m not bashing formal education, obviously because I choose to glean from highly educated people daily, I’m just suggesting that knowledge alone puffs up while love edifies. Give someone with a bunch of knowledge, sans love a platform- and he will bulldoze people. He will set himself above them, he will talk down to them, he will get angry when they challenge his methods and don’t “submit” to his demands- all the while throwing a tantrum while pointing to his credentials. He will do this because he is a blind guide who has forgotten the weightier matters of the law: faithfulness, justice, and mercy. He will do this because he isn’t in touch with his own depravity and he will chose being “right” over being a servant. He will do this because God hasn’t humbled him yet.
The way in which God selects leaders is completely counter-intuitive to us. We look at a screw up and say, “disqualified! We can no longer learn from you…see ya!” We take away their microphone and yank them from the stage with a giant wooden hook. I used to buy into this concept too until I realized that all throughout scripture, God took the biggest screw ups and set the world on fire with them.
“Satan has asked to shake you up bad, Pete. You’re gonna fail me hard core, not just once, but three times-. Know that I’m praying for you. When you come back from that major failure, strengthen our friends.”
If Peter was an example of anything, it was being the biggest screw up in Jesus’ entourage – and yet Jesus would use this quick-tempered failure of a fisherman to build His church. He had no credentials to speak of – but Jesus loved him like crazy and continues to use him 2000 plus years later – ironically, because of and through failure. This absolutely challenges the way in which we’ve determined who is qualified to lead the church.
Knowledge is a good thing, but the only way that we love and minister to the people around us with the knowledge that we’ve been handed, is to battle very seriously with our own demons and carry our own crosses to the point of despair. We need to start looking for those people who have not arrived, but have come to the place where they can’t shake the “sin that so easily entangles” that makes them turn to confession. It’s these people who realize it is grace upon which they will ever stand. These are our leaders, who’ve been so radically humbled by failure and loved in the midst of it, that they loosen the grip they’ve had on their neighbor’s throat, and serve in love.
For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong…
** Footnote** My original post included the sentence “Jesus said that Peter would be the rock upon which he would build his church”. I have corrected that statement to reflect my flow of thought while not losing the brilliant thing that is actually taking place within the passage that I referenced. I did want to go ahead and give a clarification to my original statement. The greek wording for “Rock” in this passage (Matthew 16:18) is as follows: Petros (stone) Petra (solid rock formation). The church rests upon Jesus — the steady, solid rock. However, Jesus didn’t mistep in calling Simon Bar Jonah, “Peter” (or stone) because he would be the stone tied to the building of Christ’s church. Peter, as we know was unsteady, often shifting. Yet he was tied to the one who was unmovable and constant — Jesus.
Thank you to my friend for helping me sort all of that out. You are a gem, Lauren!
*Photo Credit: You Tube
*Quote hat tip: Lauren Larkin (Or HLL, as I affectionately call her)