Sunday, November 4, 2007

The Priesthood of All Believers (or "Long Live the Laity!")

There is a very subtle and silent temptation present in my own life that I would wager exists in the lives of many people in similar situations to myself. There is an ever-present temptation to somehow think of myself as just a little bit more godly or wise or spiritual than others because I know that I am called to vocational ministry. The temptation is, in fact, quite subtle. It must remain that way if it is to retain its power. If I were to be asked directly whether or not I thought that someone in vocational ministry is necessarily a more godly person than anyone else I would immediately respond with an emphatic "No!" I really do know better.
It is clear in Scripture that all believers are members of a royal priesthood. It is from this principle that we Protestants derive the idea of the "priesthood of all believers," which believes that no Christian has a higher status than any other by simple virtue of an official position within a church.
We also see again and again Jesus commending the faith of "sinners," tax collectors, Gentiles and prostitutes while calling out many religious leaders as utterly unspiritual in the midst of all their obedience, knowledge and ritual.
There is no real justification for this temptation, but then again, such is the nature of temptation. And I will confess, to you, that I have recognized this temptation in myself. Thankfully, this is one of the temptations that is largely vanquished when its presence is realized.
I do not want to lead you to think that your pastor or Bible professor or youth pastor necessarily gives into this temptation nor even that they face it. This ungodly arrogance sits waiting for me to let it in the door, but it would not surprise me if this is not a universal temptation to those in ministry. So please, do not look down on them for this personal admission.
It is of some interest to note what, in particular, helped me come to this realization about myself. The simple truth is that Christian friends of mine who are neither in nor pursuing vocational ministry show me exemplary faith that cannot help but cause me to recognize my own silent sin of pride.
It takes almost no time spent with Dave the elementary school music teacher, Eric the engineering student, my brother Zach the paramedic, or Wes the junior high school teacher to not only be convicted of my arrogance but to have it utterly dashed upon the rocks of reality. In spending time with people like this, I realize that they have a more vibrant faith than myself. Without being paid to do ministry, they are all serving in ministry out of their love for Christ and His Church. They are the Church's most important and impactful evangelists, doing their jobs well and bringing the Good News to those with whom they work.
How, in the presence of such saints, can my pride be left in tact? Thankfully, it simply cannot. Long live the laity!