The End Of Hierarchy In The Church
Excerpted from my book, Leaving and Finding Jesus
“I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.”
Those are the NIV-translated words of Jesus found in John 15:15.
But the Brian Simmons Passion Translation of that verse is my favorite, and I think it’s infinitely more accurate—not based on my academic prowess but on what I know about love.
It reads, “I have never called you ‘servants’… But I call you my most intimate friends….”
There was no master-slave language before the fall, and there is no master-slave language in heaven. The hierarchal master-slave paradigm is the fruit of the fall, the dualism of good and evil, the cruel and punishing consequence of our Adamic devotion to separation—the transactional approach to a Father who looks away.
Master-slave language is prevalent in Scripture. The book is chock full of the problem of hierarchy and control. But when we read Scripture through the lens of cruciform love and resurrection life, the punishing master-slave paradigm simply highlights the problem Jesus solved.
Hierarchy was the narrative into which The Word incarnated. In this broken narrative, a Triune God engaged with humanity in the revelation of Family so we might awaken to friendship. Jesus walked the planet as such a powerful revelation of union and friendship that those most invested in a master-slave paradigm killed Him for it.
But thankfully, Jesus is what God has always been like, and He “never called us servants!” On a cross, He set us free from the cruel obligation and injustice of masters and slaves. “It is finished,” He said. And it was true before the very beginning and after the very end, because God is reconciling love—regardless of how we relate to Him.
And yet, today, much of the church still insists on relating to God and each other in the hierarchal paradigm of slaves and masters. We insist on making obedience the high-water mark of Christian maturity. We insist the way to eternal life is down that sin-counting road of lack. And we keep producing arrogant Prodigals and self-righteous Older Brothers—rebels, and slaves.
And there’s a word for that type of family culture—dysfunctional.
Healthy families are free of master-slave interactions, but good Lord, if the church isn’t full of this type of hierarchal dysfunction!
There is no transactional hierarchy between The Trinity. There is no separation. Yet, cruel master-slave theology is woven into the very fabric of our retributive thoughts about God. It’s a fallen narrative to which many within the church have built an altar.
Much of the church won’t leave the lie of separation and is obsessed with punishment. Because of this, the gospel message has often been twisted to propagate the master-slave paradigm Jesus set us free from. And then the church often elevates whoever slaves best to a pulpit so they can tell us what God is like.
And that’s gotta stop! Because slaving servants don’t know the plans, thoughts, motivations, or heart of the Master.
He only tells that stuff to friends!