The Egalitarian World of the Kingdom

I am always googling “Egalitarian” to see what I can come up with for new insights and resources.  Yesterday, I listened to a Jesus for Everyone podcast episode from Herb Montgomery of Renewed Heart Ministries on the Egalitarian nature of God’s Kingdom.

Herb Montgomery, director of Renewed Heart Ministries, is an author and adult religious re-educator. For over fifteen years, Herb and his wife, Crystal, have shared Jesus’ teachings with others in cities and communities across the United States. Herb’s presentations are transparent, relevant, relationally responsible, and intellectually honest. He has an unusual gift for making complex theological and sociological concepts accessible for the people he speaks to. He especially enjoys presenting to groups possessing wide and diverse “belief” spectrums yet with a common focus on compassion and justice. (RHM website)

As with many resources we share on The Beautiful Kingdom Warriors blog, this particular teaching is relevant to our discussions on gender equality in the Church.  I am unfamiliar with the scope of Montgomery’s views, but can wholeheartedly agree with this particular podcast.  You can listen here:

https://renewedheartministries.com/podcasts/83egalitarian.mp3

On the Renewed Heart Ministries website, Montgomery also shares his podcast transcript.  I am editing it down some, but you can access the full transcript here:

The Egalitarian World of the Kingdom

This week, I want to take a look at Jesus’ words in Matthew 23.8-12. The phrase I want to zero in on is, “Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Messiah.” What Jesus is commissioning us to put on display is a community characterized by humble egalitarian relationships rather than hierarchical ones. In all actuality, Jesus was death to any person using hierarchical authority over another: “But Jesus called them to him and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant.’” (Matthew 20.25-26)

According to the Hebrew creation narrative, hierarchical relationships are a fruit of the relational schisms that took place in the garden; they are not reflective of original creation (Genesis 1.26 mentions authority over creation, but not authority over others.) Even in a perfect state, the narrative seems to hint at humanity’s inability to exercise authority over one other. Nor are they reflective of the new creation that has come through Jesus. (See 2 Corinthians 5.17, NIV.)

The early followers of Jesus understood this vision. Notice Paul’s description of how the church that met in Corinth functioned: “When you come together, each of you has a hymn or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation.” (1 Corinthians 14.26, emphasis added) The gatherings of the early church, historical scholars agree, were not ones where the majority sat passively silent while the same person taught every week. These were communities that embraced the priesthood of all believers, each one possessing a gift to share that would contribute to and build up the body. They saw themselves as having only one teacher (the Messiah), and they were are all humble students, together, showing each other what Jesus was teaching them. These were communities where following the “one-anothers” of the New Testament could be practiced as well as put on display for the world around them to see.

The early followers of Jesus believed that together, they equally became a dwelling place for God. (See Ephesians 2.22, where the “you” is plural, not singular, and 1 Peter 2.4-8.) They believed that together, they were functioning here on Earth as the visible “body of Christ,” with only Christ as their “head” (Ephesians 4.15)—not “lording” authority over each other, but humbly and lovingly serving one another. In this way, they, as a community, believed that together, they were partaking of the “divine nature” (see 2 Peter 1.4) and that “all of them” were “one,” just as the Father was in Christ and as Christ was in the Father. “They” saw themselves in Them. (See John 17.20-21.)

The body metaphor used by Paul is especially telling when taken with Jesus’ words in Matthew 23. When our head signals to our hands, it doesn’t first signal the arm to tell the hands to move; neither must the hand submit to the arm in order for it to obey the head. The brain sends direct signals to those body parts it seeks to influence; consequently, the head controls all of the body’s parts immediately and directly. It doesn’t pass its impulses through a chain-of-command scheme invoking other body parts along the way.

The proper application of the body metaphor preserves the unvarnished truth that in the world changed by Jesus, there is no hierarchical authority practiced by Jesus’ followers over other of His followers. There is only one source of authority in the church: Jesus Christ.

It is mutual submission (i.e., being submitted to one another and then together to Christ), not hierarchical submission (i.e., being submitted to someone else as they are submitted to someone else who has submitted themselves to Christ), that engenders the proper coordination of the body of Christ.

We are not called to put on display simply a religious version of the corporate structures of this world. On the contrary, Jesus is inviting us to experience (and then to put on display) a world where, rather than exercising power over others, we—together, as a community—come under His authority , each of us together learning how to listen to Him. And instead of “lording” power or position over each other, we learn what it means and what it looks like to serve each other with humble servant love.


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2 responses to “The Egalitarian World of the Kingdom

  1. This is so beautiful that I
    actually cried. Thank you.

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