For God is not a God of disorder but of peace—as in all the congregations of the Lord’s people. – 1 Cor. 14:33
It just struck me how much the new modus operandi of the church can be boiled down to one very little and extremely useful word: order.
From the very beginning, there’s an order. An order of creation as well as Creation Order which is not at all the same thing. There’s the order to the operation of church, an order of pastoral authority, and even an order of authority in the family. You name it – they’ve found a way to create a hierarchical chain of command to run it.
It’s just that I’m not terribly convinced that the most important thing to God is that we live according to all of these orders that we keep on seeing everywhere. Assuming God would keep even His own rules, then he would necessarily have to always work through the first born, the kings, the generals, the prophets and the priests as the ones having the most authority.
If order was all that mattered, Jacob would have been the one that God hated and Esau the one that God loved. If order was all that mattered, then King Eliab would have replaced King David as the firstborn. If order was all that mattered, then King Amnon would have replaced King Solomon. If order was all that mattered then Eli’s eldest son, not Hannah’s son Samuel would have served God. If order was all that mattered, then Deborah would not have served as a judge. If order was all that mattered, then God would not have used Mary when there were far more ‘worthy’ candidates belonging to wealthy and powerful families. If order was all that mattered – then why amend the Temple Worship system with Jesus’ message? Didn’t Jesus draw the ire of the spiritual authorities – the Pharisees, the Saducees, the Scribes, and the Teachers of the Law simply because he would not teach as they taught or do as they did?
But it seems that we’ve fallen for a lie that if we obey order then we will please God. Because somehow the God that chose the younger over the elder, the last over the first, an outsider over insiders, and a woman over men has suddenly decided that he now prefers elders over youth, first over last, insiders over outsiders, and men over women. Perhaps we’ve gotten the wrong idea about order. Because the verse doesn’t say that God is a God of order, but of peace. Sure, there’s peace in order, but sometimes order is anything but peaceful.
Take the Pax Romana, for example – it was an unprecedented time of peace achieved by the order maintained by the Roman Empire. It was achieved by the Roman armies completely destroying any resistance – from outside and inside of the empire. It lasted from 27 B.C. to 180 A.D. That’s not to say that there wasn’t discord in that time – just that all of it was met with the unfriendly edge of a Roman sword or spear. Peace and order were achieved, but not everyone was happy with the means that justified the ends.
From what I’m seeing order isn’t exactly at the top of God’s list in his interactions with people – so the odds that he would change to suddenly decide that He likes order some two thousand years or so after the events of Scripture leads me to believe that the idea of Creation Order, Authority Order, Family Order, Church Order, etc. is not His work. It doesn’t match Jesus’ description of his upside-down kingdom:
Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” – Mark 10:42-45
Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” – Matthew 20:25-28
Jesus said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves. – Luke 22:25-27
Jesus could have called twelve disciples from ruling families with the ancestry to prove they were worthy leaders in the coming kingdom. He chose fisherman, a doctor, and even a tax collector to follow him while women bankrolled his ministry. Order never was high on his priority list. So why is it at the top of ours?