She is a loony liberal! He is a closed-minded conservative! Such labeling of fellow Christians creates division in the church.
Far better would be evaluations like these: He loves to share the gospel and centers his life on a personal walk with the Lord. She stresses doctrine and the importance of knowing what you believe and why you believe it. They work on social justice issues and how best to advance God’s kingdom.
These labels draw Christians together rather than driving them apart. After all, we share a precious name: Christian. Christ means “Anointed One.” He is our anointed chief prophet, high priest, and eternal king. We believers, according to 1 Peter 4:16, are to praise God that we bear Christ’s name. Christians share in Christ’s anointing. We, too, are prophets, priests, and kings.
As prophets we cherish God’s Word. We meditate on it and lovingly proclaim its truths to others. As priests we receive by faith Christ’s sacrifice for our sins; out of gratitude, we give of ourselves to others, including the teaching of doctrine, much like the priests did in Nehemiah 8. As kings we receive from our eternal king spiritual gifts, exercising leadership with those gifts in the various arenas of his vast kingdom.
The trouble is, not a single one of us perfectly carries out the roles of prophet, priest, and king. Jesus held his threefold office in perfect balance. We do not. In fact, we are prone to emphasize one of the offices at the expense of the other two. Each of us is lopsided. What’s worse, our lopsidedness does more than hinder our personal growth. It also causes us to discount other believers who do not share the same lopsidedness. We tend to view ourselves as having the whole truth, and we quickly suspect those who do not see things from our particular emphasis.
Examples of this abound within the church. Doctrinalists oppose a church proposal to develop a community center because it lacks a focus on the gospel. Transformationalists discount the doctrinalists as chained to dead orthodoxy. Pietists view both sides as hopelessly caught up in their own pride and lacking in prayer. And how is this pietistic view received? You guessed it—they are the “holier than thou” group, out of touch with earthly realities.
As these differences get played out over time, things go from bad to worse. Before you know it, people are leaving the church in the hope of finding the “true church.” In this “true church,” of course, most share the same lopsidedness. The cycle repeats itself when the majority dies out or eventually loses control.
Becoming more Christlike means growing in all three roles we are anointed to. Given that our denomination is not gaining many new members through evangelism, maybe we should listen to and learn from brothers and sisters who eagerly share the gospel and excel in the spiritual disciplines. Given that chaplains report that many of our college students have mixed-up ideas about who God is and the way of salvation, maybe we should listen to and learn from brothers and sisters who stress doctrine. Given that enrollment is down at many of our Christian schools and that our society is torn in so many ways, maybe we should listen to and learn from brothers and sisters who strive to promote a Christian perspective in all areas of life.
Instead of viewing one another as liberals, moderates, or conservatives, let’s think of ourselves as prophets, priests, and kings. Face it—we are all lopsided. We need each other to balance out.
- As you read the article, which of the three “roles” (prophet, priest, or king) do you feel you currently lean into most?
- What do you think are the strengths of each of these three “lopsided” Christians?
- What are some ways the three types of Christians can work together for God’s mission and glory instead of against each other?
- How do you think we can grow into more balanced Christians who embrace all three dimensions of Christian discipleship?
About the Author
Doug Aldrink is a retired pastor in the Christian Reformed Church.