Equality in the Kingdom #3 The Elites

 

Equality in the Kingdom #3 The Elites

 In our exploration of the Equality in the Kingdom of God, we have seen that citizenship in the Kingdom is open to all, that all are invited.  We have seen that women are on equal footing with men when it comes to leadership roles in the Church.  Today we are going to look at elitism and discover there is no hierarchy in the Kingdom.  There is but one King, there is but one Master (1 Corinthians 8:6) the rest in the Kingdom stand on level ground.

 Do you remember that in Junior High and High School that the cheerleaders and star athletes had a higher social status than the members of the chess club?  Did you notice that the wealth of one's parents elevated your social status?  Did you notice if you didn’t fit the current cultural standard for looking cool that you were not going to be part of the “in crowd?”  Ever panic because of a pimple?  Elitism.  The elite rule the rest drool.  It seemed to me that in those teen years that there was a caste system.  You were either in or out, cool or nerd, cuddled or cowered, a social winner or a social loser, and there was not moving up in the system. 

 The way of the world, and clearly seen in our culture, is a hierarchy.  There are elites in our society, some we know their names Gates, Bezo, Zuckerberg, Musk, Buffet.  Celebrities, Pro Athletes, Politicians, all have special access.  The rich, the rapidly shrinking middle class, and the poor, all stratified, locked into their positions in society.  It’s been this way throughout history, Kings and Peasants, Royalty and Commoners, Master’s and Slaves, Employers and Employees, Presidents and Constituents, with the ambitious clamoring for the top spots.

 We find this worldly way in the Church.  Popes, Cardinals, Bishops, Priests, each office accompanied by special privileges, with those lower on the hierarchy giving their due deference to those higher than they.  Protestants are not exempt.  The Pastor is the only one who can baptize and administer the Lord’s Supper, Preach the Word and preside over weddings and funerals.  Our denomination the Church of the Nazarene hasn’t escaped this either with our Superintendents, Pastors, Deacons, and Laity divisions that honor one servant more than another.  Let me sneak one in, the Pastor of the larger congregation is given more deference than the Pastor of a smaller congregation.  

 Elitism is alive and well in a place it should not be, the Church.  For in the Kingdom of God there is equality, no one stands higher, no one has special privileges, no one is favored more than another. Every believer is a chosen one and being chosen is the great equalizer.

 1 Peter 2:9-10 (MSG)

But you are the ones chosen by God, chosen for the high calling of priestly work, chosen to be a holy people, God's instruments to do his work and speak out for him, to tell others of the night-and-day difference he made for you—from nothing to something, from rejected to accepted.

 If elitism was part of the kingdom there was a perfect time for it to be displayed, during the first Pentecost.  There were 120 gathered in the upper room, 11of the men were those selected by Jesus, we call them the original disciples. There was an additional 109 followers of Jesus, men, and women gathered in that place.  When the Holy Spirit was poured out it wasn’t just upon the eleven bestowing some saintly status that was not available to the “common” believer.  No, all 120 received the promised gift of the Holy Spirit.  In the Kingdom of God, there is equality, everyone is equal, no one is greater, no one is less.

 Unfortunately, it just may have been the original 11 disciples who even after the infilling of the Holy Spirit mistakenly created a hierarchy

  “It is not right that we should neglect the word of God in order to wait on tables.” (Acts 6:2, NRSV) It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. (Acts 6:2, NIV)

 I don’t think they realized the ramifications of what was going to happen.  What happened is an artificial division between what would be called clergy and laity occurred and it has damaged the church: Special privileges for some, but not for all.  It’s interesting to note that the 7 elected to serve tables go on to be most effective in spreading the Kingdom.

 Then we have gone and created Christian celebrities, the big names filling the conference platforms, writing the best-selling books, getting top billing at the concert.  This is in and of itself not bad until we think that they must be better than us, that God must like them better, that they are somehow worthy of God’s greater blessings and that we must have been at the end of the line when the Jesus gave gifts to his followers and He ran out of the really good ones before we got to the front of the line.  Worse when those we have idolized come to believe that they are special expecting and demanding VIP treatment.  Friends, God used a donkey to communicate His will. The Reverend Billy Graham was a great American icon, but he was just a servant using the gifts that God had given.  He was willing to be used, so God used Him.  God will use you too if you will allow Him to.  The only thing that holds you back is your fear brought on by inferiority.  In the Kingdom, there are no inferior citizens.  Peter, one of the 11, recognized that there is a priesthood of all believers, equality, everyone having the same status. 

Every now and then at the restaurant, there will be a long wait.  I’ll say to the host or hostess, “excuse me, don’t you know who I am?”  I think it’s funny.  Have you ever heard this line: “Do you know who you are speaking to?” Now if that wasn’t a parent it sounds like someone needs to get down from their high horse.   No one rides higher than anyone else in the Kingdom

 Consider what Jesus taught his disciples. 

 Mark 9:33-35 (MSG)

They came to Capernaum. When he was safe at home, he asked them, “What were you discussing on the road?” The silence was deafening—they had been arguing with one another over who among them was greatest. He sat down and summoned the Twelve. “So you want first place? Then take the last place. Be the servant of all.”

 There are no special servants, there are just servants and in serving one another in love we fulfill God’s desire for us.   We are all Servants. Let’s get biblical, the word translated as servants in the original language means slave.  A slave is a slave regardless of the positions of serving they are responsible for.

 When the mother of James and John asked Jesus to give her sons special places of honor, the other disciples got angry.  “What, do they think they are better than us?”

 Matthew 20:24-28 (MSG)

When the ten others heard about this, they lost their tempers, thoroughly disgusted with the two brothers. So Jesus got them together to settle things down. He said, “You’ve observed how godless rulers throw their weight around, how quickly a little power goes to their heads. It’s not going to be that way with you. Whoever wants to be great must become a servant. Whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave. That is what the Son of Man has done: He came to serve, not be served—and then to give away his life in exchange for the many who are held hostage.”

 Every believer is to serve, each one according to the opportunities presented, but regardless of the nature of that service, there is equality in the Kingdom.

 Consider Jesus parable of the good Samaritan.  The Samaritan was goyim: “different, separate, not chosen.”  Yet Jesus says the goyim is righteous in his loving actions towards the mugged traveler, whereas those with religious status, and because of their religious requirements refusing aid, were not.  The ones with the titles missed the mark. The ones in the public eyes were worse off than the goy.  “By depicting a Samaritan as the hero of the story, Jesus demolished all artificial boundaries,[thus] social position, race, religion, count for nothing in the Kingdom.”  (Bruxy Cavey, The End of Religion p.115)  The only thing that truly matters is faith expressing itself in love.  “Jesus calls people to love in such a way that all social barricades are broken, penetrated, subverted, including and especially those erected by religion.”  (Cavey p. 117).  This is so because there is equality in the Kingdom.

 The Holy Spirit can change your heart so it is a heart of equality.  What an incredible blessing to see others as equal to yourself.  What a blessing to be able to deal with someone who thinks they are better than you with love.  What happens to hate, to jealousy, to oppression, to violence in a kingdom of Equality is that they vanish.  You can bring Heaven to Earth by treating everyone as your equal, no better than you, no worse than you.  Doesn’t matter what you’ve done, who made your bed, the ground is level in the Kingdom. Want to be an equality blesser, an equal opportunity encourager?  Then simply treat everyone in the same manner as you want them to treat you. This way you bring the equality of the Kingdom to those who do not know it and those who should know better.

 “God is no respecter of persons” (Acts 10:3) “And that’s another way of saying, “God treats everybody equally.” “All people are equal before God ... All have equal responsibility to use their gifts and obey their calling to the glory of God.

[ Equality in the Kingdom (gty.org) ] Three times in the Gospel according to Matthew he recalls Jesus saying some variation of the first will be last and the last will be first. [Matthew 19:30, 20:8, 20:16.  Also Mark 9:35, 10:31; and, Luke 13:30.] Hang in there with me, the first become last, the last become first, but then those previously first are last so they become first and those previously last are first so they become last.  Isn’t that a way of saying all are equal?  [ Equality in the Kingdom (gty.org) That’s probably not the accepted understanding of Jesus meaning, just food for thought on some late Saturday night when you’re bored with SNL.

 Even though there is equality in the Kingdom, what you do with what God has given is taken into account.  Recall in the parable of the talents each was given a certain amount in keeping with their ability.  The faithful servants were rewarded in keeping with what they accomplished.  The servant who did nothing was not rewarded, what was his to manage was taken away.  Jesus said:

 Revelation 22:12 (NCV)

“Listen! I am coming soon! I will bring my reward with me, and I will repay each one of you for what you have done.

 In the Kingdom, we have equal opportunity to receive a reward from Jesus according to what we do as citizens of the Kingdom. All we have to do to be rewarded is to use the gifts and opportunities God gives.

 The Apostle Paul warned us:

1 Corinthians 3:11-15 (NCV)

The foundation that has already been laid is Jesus Christ, and no one can lay down any other foundation. 12 But if people build on that foundation, using gold, silver, jewels, wood, grass, or straw, 13 their work will be clearly seen, because the Day of Judgment will make it visible. That Day will appear with fire, and the fire will test everyone’s work to show what sort of work it was. 14 If the building that has been put on the foundation still stands, the builder will get a reward. 15 But if the building is burned up, the builder will suffer loss. The builder will be saved, but it will be as one who escaped from a fire.

What you do is important.  What you do may make you great in the Kingdom.  What you do may result in receiving a crown.  You may be awarded a seat on a throne as reward for what you have done. Every follower of Jesus has an equal opportunity to be rewarded. 

 What I want you to walk away with today is knowing that the Kingdom of God is the Kingdom of Equality.  Anyone who desires may respond to God's gracious invitation to enter.  Have you by the way?  Have you asked God to accept your faith and allow you entrance?  Why are you waiting?  What’s holding you back?  Deal with it, the door is open, it’s up to you to walk through it. 

 In the Kingdom women are on equal footing with men, there are no second-class citizens in the Kingdom.  There are no spiritual gifts reserved for only men or only women, the Holy Spirit distributes gifts as He sees fits upon the children of God to further the Kingdom of God.

Today we’ve learned that there is no special status in the kingdom.  All are slaves of Christ, all on level ground.  God doesn’t play favorites.  There are no elites, no hierarchy.  Every person who enters the Kingdom has an equal opportunity to bring glory to God. 


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