You are what you eat.
Well, that was how the advertisement campaign went. Their point was clear, if you eat healthy you’ll be healthy. If you eat fat, guess what, you’ll be fat. It stands to reason that if you eat tart, you are a tart:) (I am a dad now, you know).
A little closer to reality is the idea that you are what you do. That is, your value is inextricably bound to the role that you carry out in society. If you are a doctor then you get treated like a doctor. If you are a plumber then you get treated like a tradie. If you are a cleaner then you get the cleaning treatment.
And so we’ve had this somewhat generous revolution in the past 20 years that has seen the role of mothering move from being considered as ‘just’ mothering to the full-time job of mothering. And rightly so, I might add.
The opposite has been cast on nurses, teachers and the police. These once respected roles are now mud. Ok, some will pipe up here and tell me that they are needed and are a vital part of society’s proper functioning, but that is not my point. The kudos associated with such roles has depleted considerably over the past 20 years.
I understand this well.
I am a teacher and my wife is a doctor. The stark reaction in the past when we were quizzed as to out occupations was deafening. If I was the first to say (my preference), then people would respond with, ‘Oh, that’s great. Do you enjoy it? I could never do that.’ Then Katie would say that she is a doctor and she would be met with, ‘Oh, wow, etc, etc.’. If Katie was to respond first, she would get the same reaction. Then came the let down, ‘I’m a teacher.’ It was weird to say the least.
Here we are being defined by what we do.
I wonder if this attitude has crept in the church too?
Paul would turn in his grave and Jesus would shuffle on his throne to hear that such value was being derived from what one does, the role one plays, or the badge one wears.
Paul writes in Colossians 1:2,
To God’s holy people in Colossae, the faithful brothers and sisters in Christ
One’s identity here is not determined by their capacity to do this or that. They are defined by whom they indwell, that is, Christ. By their own merit they are not holy or faithful, but because they are in Christ they are holy and faithful.
In Christ they are holy and faithful. We have to get a grip of ‘in christ-ness’.
When reflecting upon my last post (here) and the subsequent discussion that occurred around the traps, I could not help but think that much of the reaction was due (at least in part) to connecting the role and person.
In other words, if role is synonymous with person then any kind of priority that is given to a particular role (by God?) necessarily depreciates those without it. But this should not be the case.
I admit that doctors are more important than teachers – they are! Keeping someone alive is much more important than anything that I can teach someone. However, if Katie and I were to attach our respective roles to our persons then she would be more important than me. But we all know that this is not the case, though not because I am more important than her. Nor am I equal to Katie by some measure based on our roles.
In God’s economy, there may well be roles that are more valued than others, after all there are some gifts that should be desired because they are greater. The possession of these roles (or not) has no bearing upon one’s value as a person (before God and therefore other believers) in the positive or negative.
If our identity is bound by our roles there is cause for hierarchy, but this is not the divine economy.
There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Gal. 3:28).
There you have it again – in Christ Jesus – the great equaliser!
Instead of trying to find or create personal value in the roles that we (or others) are engaged with, and even given by God, perhaps we should be focussing our attention on finding value in whom we dwell.
I think this ontological orientation might just free the church to engage with God’s economy even if it places greater emphasis or value on certain giftings or roles in the church.