Jesus was a Jew, always a faithful Jew, based firmly on the Bible and on the Temple in Jerusalem, but he was outraged at the failure of the leaders to follow their own teaching.
The Jews were remarkable, one tribe, one language, one nation, one country, held together by one faith, the children of Abraham, taught by Moses and the prophets, a light to the nations. Moses taught, “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.” (Deuteronomy 6:5) But the guardians of tradition had lost the plot, forgotten the core of it, become self serving, inventing heavy rules and regulations for everybody else, not for themselves.
We can tut about this Jewish failure. But we Christians fall into the same trap. New Testament presbyters expected to maintain order, exercise discipline, and superintend the affairs of the church, morphed over centuries into priests. They also took over the supper of the Lord so that a householder wishing to “do this in memory of me” had now to defer to the priestly monopoly. Then the presbyter, newly branded priest began to rank above others and formally entered this high order by being ordained.
I don’t have to go on about the exaggerated role of the priest and the exaggerated deference and trust placed in him, or how disempowered other Christians became. But please note how people in the church, just like the family of an addict, took on the role of defender and supporter. The Church is plagued with clericalism. We are all involved in it. Bishops are being exposed for turning a blind eye to abuse, too many others have also looked away.
With eyes open and hearts set on God we seek “the fruit of the Spirit, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.”
Jeff Foale is an Australian Passionist living in Vietnam, a former New Guinea missionary with a passion for service of the poor and refugees and who loves life in all its forms and enjoys photography.