When Adam and Eve were formed, they were created to be equal. I strongly suspect there was no wife beating or henpecking going on in the Garden of Eden. My sense of what happened there was mutual cooperation, respect, and love.
That, of course, all changed when they disobeyed God and brought sin into the world. The Lord then proceeded to curse everything under the sun. Eve’s part of the curse of Eden was, “Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.” (Genesis 3:16)
That word, rule, is pretty heavy. But, as history shows, men pushed females around for a long time after that. It’s no wonder politicians like to talk about a “glass ceiling” for women.
Domination is the way of human history.
It didn’t stop there, as we know. Cain killed Abel, Moses killed an Egyptian, and Herod beheaded John. Ever since we got kicked out of the Garden, we’ve been trying to lord it over one another. Some have been more successful at that than others.
Monarchs and dictators rule over their subjects and attempt to rule over each other. Apparently, one kingdom isn’t enough. Going after someone else’s stuff and dominating them is the way of human history. This attitude even wormed its way into the church.
Up until 300 AD, Christianity was more of a movement than anything else. It certainly wasn’t a world religion. The early Christians weren’t particularly known for their pious rituals. They were, instead, known for the way they lived—for the way they treated each other and the people around them.
They weren’t institutionalized and formal. They existed more like a household than a corporation. They cared about each other and were known for their love. They lived like a family with roots in the community and compassion in their hearts. And, much like in the Garden of Eden, no one lorded it over another. Even the Apostles were servants, shoulder to shoulder with everyone else.
“We created a new pecking order.”
Then the Roman Empire decided Christianity was the way to go, and everything changed. Rome was a place of hierarchy. It was the mother of the corporation. Before too long, so was the church. Quickly, the leaders were no longer the servants. Bishops, pastors, and elders became the hot shots. Interestingly enough, the Biblical word (in the Greek) for all these positions is often the same term. Yet, we created a new pecking order. The Bible doesn’t do that—we did that.
Consequently, we began to read our new practices back into Scripture. We began to discover positions of authority in the Bible that weren’t really there. Some of the servants became the rulers, and we found Scripture to validate that practice.
These days, it’s hard to find a congregation that actually functions as a family. People are leaving churches in droves because we often lack real community. Others, who never were part of a church, see no reason to start now. Why should they? They can find more of a community in their local taverns.
[To Be Continued…]
[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and is currently the pastor of Smith Chapel, in Great Falls, VA.]