Clergy-laity distinctions

by sumpteretc

I just finished reading about Aaron’s ordination, and I’m suddenly feeling like my own wasn’t a very big deal. Aaron had fancy clothes, bits of blood & oil scattered here and there, and waved some big chunks of meat in the air. I just got prayed for and handed a Bible. Okay, so I’m being a little facetious, but it does make you stop and wonder . . . have we gone a little too far in eliminating the clergy-laity divide?

I understand that we are in a different dispensation now, and I know that there is a sense in which we are a priesthood of believers. We no longer offer blood sacrifices, we no longer have to go to a certain place to worship and we no longer depend upon another human to mediate with God for us. So, does this mean that those who provide spiritual leadership or religious assistance must necessarily fall in prestige?

I certainly think that it is healthy that the laity have been encouraged to step and shoulder part of the load. There is definitely a responsibility for them to be actively involved in evangelism, in Bible study, in prayer, in the exercise of spiritual gifts, and on and on. However, there is a different and specialized role for the clergy. These are the men and women who have received a special call from God to have the ministry of equipping others, so that the body of Christ may be built up. Have we not downplayed their role in the process of empowering the laity?

Paul clearly made distinctions between the clergy and the laity. He said we ought to give triple honor to those among us who minister the Word to us. He said that the worker (the clergyman) was worthy of his hire. He held the clergy to a higher standard and discouraged people from entering the clergy who did not feel a call from God and a commission from the church to do so.

How does this play out in modern Christian life? Well, the clergy probably do not need the elaborate costuming of the priest, but there is something to be said for a style of dress that distinguishes the sacred from the secular. Obviously, the animal sacrifices are not relevant to our culture or historical setting, but perhaps the member of the clergy needs to take more seriously the trust that has been placed in him or her by the church. If there was some more symbolic way to do this within the setting of an ordination ceremony, it might well be worth the inclusion.