Today the president is just getting back from a 12 day, 5 country trip to Asia. The meetings, the dinners, the photo sessions all must become exhausting after a while. But also the protocol! It must be hard for dignitaries from any country to keep the protocol straight when visiting different nations. How do you know when to smile, when to shake hands, when to walk, when to stop walking, which way to turn or not turn so that you’re not going against the customs and sensibilities of such a variety of cultures? Which is the right way to conduct yourself in any given situation?
Our question today isn’t about local protocols or customs. Those things change from place to place and from time to time. But, whether it initially sounds that way or not, the question does touch on how we conduct ourselves. Specifically, how do we conduct ourselves as Christians in this world in the way we relate to one another when it comes to roles in the Church?
In a previous post, which you can find archived in this column, the authoritative voters’ assemblies of our congregations were addressed. There is a place where we ask our gentlemen to step up and serve in a leadership role of service in the Church. And a focus that rose to the surface regarding that topic was just that: “service”. That’s how we relate to one another as Christians. We emulate our Savior who “did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28). We give ourselves in service to others, “just as Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her.” (Ephesians 5:25) And when it comes to that loving service, God has given roles to men and women who live together as husband and wife and who relate to each other as fellow believers in the Church – and then by extension who live as Christians in society as well.
Gentlemen, step up and serve! God has assigned to you a leadership role of service. Adam was formed first and Eve as a suitable helper. Together they were to give themselves selflessly in service to each other and to be a pattern of those who followed. Adam was standing right there when Eve started talking to the serpent, however, and he showed no beneficial leadership. That would have been the time! Eve instead took a lead role in leading him astray along with her. They both did wrong. Sin entered the world. And selfless roles of service have been blighted by selfish desires to be served ever since. Adam was held accountable. “Sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all have sinned.” (Romans 5:12)
“But the gift is not like the trespass.” … Paul goes on … “For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many!” (Romans 5:15) Because Jesus came to give his perfect life as the sacrifice for all of our trespasses, we have forgiveness and peace with God. We have a new heart as well. Oh, sin and selfishness are still right there with us. But our new heart, the heart of Christ, instead seeks to live in thankfulness to him who served and gave his life as our ransom price!
To the question of women’s ordination: it’s not a question of intelligence or ability or heart or rank, but it’s a matter of conducting ourselves as servants in the roles that our Savior has given us. In the Church, when it comes to authority and leadership, God expects men to step up! The other side of that coin is that he asks Christian women to let them step up and serve in that way. Paul wrote, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve.” (I Timothy 2:12,13). But all of this direction, under the heading of “instructions on worship” is in the context of how we conduct ourselves in the Church. “You will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.” (I Timothy 3:15)
In a similar way, under the heading of “orderly worship” in I Corinthians 14:34 we read, “Women should remain silent in the churches.” That comes right after a section of verses talking about teaching and preaching and interpreting and publicly proclaiming in the churches’ worship settings. It’s not a question of whether or not one of the sexes can do it as well or better than the other. It’s a question of orderliness, an order determined by God himself. It’s a question of service to God and to one another that leads both Christian men and Christian women to respect God, respect his order and respect each other.
That’s why historically only men were ordained for the public pastoral ministry of the Church. It’s only as portions of the visible church on earth veered farther and farther from the Word of God that the ordination of women became an accepted and even prevalent practice in some circles. But, veering from the Word isn’t something we’d ever want to endorse, and so we maintain the historic practice of asking our men to take a leadership role of service in the church, including as pastors.
Blessings in Christ,