The 15x10 feet study room has been my space for the last 6 days, it was a very quiet space for the soul but the noise of the cars and the contruction site nearby has been the constant sound I hear. The room has become my world and I am glad my books that sits on the shelf has found its way to my table and has been my companion since. My notebook and phone has been a live line to the world beyond this confined space. On day 6, I picked up a long forgotten book, that has been gathering dust on my shelf,entitled: 'The Other 6 Days' by R. Paul Stevens. As I reflected on the last six days of my quarantine due to Covid, it brings to my mind that these 6 long days are important for my body to fight the virus. I cannot say enough how important the 6 other days are to your work life (I am sure many of you agrees with me). For 2/3 of our waking hours are spent on those 6 other days, where we work, study, spend time with families, friends, run our errands, and connect socially with the people we know.
Re-reading this book, reminded me that these 6 days should be lived out in great anticipation and with full of excitement because it will shaped and mould us because it is in this 6 days 'the rubber meets the road', where our faith must be practical to our ordinary life. Faith cannot be lived out in a vacuum and faith must give meaning to our 6 wonderful days of the week so that our life will make sense, at times, to gain some sanity in our insanity world of work. We are the special people, called by God to lived out our life as we make a difference to live life to the fullest on those 6 wonderful days of our existence every week.
Irony, the disparity of the fragmented world reminded us that these 6 days can be quite challenging for the ordinary (the laity, the masses) to live out their fragmented faith life, between the called/the permitted and between holy/profane, and I have always been thinking, I am in that category of the masses, the laity, the insignificant ones that rarely make it to the radar of God in my life outside the church wall. We always find the masses that are living on these 6 days are in the shadow of this confusion dualistic worldview and are never good enough to reach the fullest potentials of the destiny that God has for us. We becomes a victim of our fragmented thinking!
Karl Barth (theologian and writer) in one of his work says this- The term 'laity, the masses' (refers to the ordinary people) is one of the worst in the vocabulary of religion and ought to be banished from Christian conversation! On this, I fully agree with him for this is a slippery term that defines you on the other 6 days of your life.
Depending how the church defines it, be it by function (one that does not administer sacraments and the word), by status (does not have the Rev, title) by location (serves primarily in the world), by education (not theologically trained), by remuneration (not paid/ hold a full time job at church), by lifestyles (not that religious but occupied secular life) and by virtue (an assistance to the pastors), the laity is always on the losing side. Even the Reformation era of the 16th century, with its theological reform in place to deconstruct the clergy/laity distinction, it did very little to clear the dualistic mindset and this label sticks with us like a ghost in the past.
If we step into the church today, I am sure the laity and clergy distinction is in your psyche and if you asked an ordinary Christians, about their calling in the 6 other days, you will probably find many shocking answers. Many of our leaders would live in such segregation, where we hear leaders saying 'we are only serving as a layperson and we cannot do this, ask the pastor'. I am not demeaning the role of the pastor, for he is the leader of that community and yet he is only an ordinary members of the people of God (Laos) like you. This should be the premises of the leadership in the church but what we see was a fragmented church with a clear distinction between 'laity' who receives and the 'clergy, who gave, with laity been perceived wrongly and often given a bad press. This way of looking at the dynamic of the people of God is utterly not biblical according to the New Testament teaching.
Looking at the New Testament, I would like to say, that the world of the other 6 days collapses into 1 as we bring our Sunday's faith to Monday's work (see the church of Acts 2). There we see no traces of the dualistic thinking of call/not called, of laity/clergy, and of holy/profane. The word 'laity' is not a biblical term and the concept is a later addition to the church vocabulary. The bible see the people as (laos) of God (perople of God), with leaders assigned to the group with a clear distinction of an office/service. Let us look at how the word is being used as we judge for ourselves how it should shape the other 6 days of your life.
First is the greek word 'laikos', which means 'belonging to the common people'. This word is not used for Christians until Clement of Rome uses it at the end of the first century (AD 96) to refer to Christians. Tertullian would later affirmed when he says " If 3 are gathered together, even though they are laymen, this is a church' and in his war against heretics, he says that they put 'laymen on the functions of priesthoods', this is how the word is being used by the church fathers in the early church.
Second is the word for laity - 'idiotes', the root word for Idiot (English), where it means 'lay in contrast to an expert or specialist'. This word is also not used for believers. In Acts 4:13, we see its usage- where the members of the Jewish Sanhedrin expresses their amazement at the powerful preaching of the 'unschooled, ordinary men'- 'idoitai' when it refers to Peter and John. In 1 Cor.14:23, it is used to describe a person (an outsider) coming to a meeting, who totally don't understand what is going on!
From the two words that describe 'laity', we see it as a late addition and it is not used much by the Christians and the use is not derogative in nature as to seperate the higher calling (priest) /permitted calling (laity).
Third, the word 'laos' refer to the 'nation of people' or 'the crowd' as how it is been used in the Old Testament (See Acts 15:14- a people for his name). The word does means 'untrained' or 'ordinary' or 'masses' under God but they refer to are truly extraordinary/ special people under God probably with a leader, who are equipping, leading or ministering to them (like that of Ephs.4:11-12; with offices in the church clearly defined). Hence we do not see a distinction that derogate certain group of people but elevate them as special covenant people under God.
The Question we have today-
1. Should we removed the distinction? The answer is a resounding-yes!
2. Can they be? This is a much harder question due to the entrenced system of clerical hierachy in the church.
So if you have been calling me eric, you can continue to do so, I am fine,you do not need to address me as Rev. as I am a 'laos' just like you with an office (of a pastor) to serve the community under my watch (serve you and God through my calling). This office comes without any special priveleges and perks, that is in any way signifying that I am better or more superior than you as a 'laos' of God.
The word clergy, 'cleros', is a term not used for an ordained, called or denoting a special anointed one... but it means 'lot, share, portion assigned to someone'. It is used in the Old Testament in the context of 'inheritance in the promise land'. Peter and John tells Simon Magus that he has no part of share (cleros) in the ministry because his heart is not right (Acts 8:21 : Deut 12:12). If today we share the whole inheritance as believers then we are all called 'cleros' and Paul in Acts 26:17-18, are to be send to the gentiles and addressed them...that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place (kleron) among those who are sanctified by faith in me. This is clearly not a word used in the sense of an office, with the exception of Ignatious of Antioch using the term clergy for martyrs in the 3rd century AD.
So, in the last 300 years, there is no clear evidences that this word is used as an office of a priest except the later addition by Ignatius. With this developement, we see the universalizing of the clergy rather than the increase of laity as we moved from the old to the new covenant. However due to the instituitionalization of church and the emergence of the priestly class the laity distinction takes root rapidly after the 3rd century AD.
Therefore, on the other 6 days of your every week, we should not see ourselves as just a lay person/one of the masses of the many. The church has no laity in one sense, but full of clergy in the true sense and we are one of them, an heirs to the inheritance through Christ. So on the other 6 days of your life, you are to be the 'laos' of God as you integrate your faith and reflect theologically of who you are and what is the purpose of God's calling in your life. We are to be the clergy of God, living in the world of universal blessedness, giftedness, empowered by the Spirit, doing the will and the work of God as the royal priesthood, a holy nation, and a people unto God. This is the destiny for the other 6 days of our every week, are you ready to walk into it? If you do, then the masses with the ordinariness of life will not be a 'laity' but a 'clergy' of God in the nation of a special people (laos) under God.