The New Testament makes clear that the followers of King Jesus make up a distinct and different nation. In past posts we have examined how being born into this new nation places claims on our allegiance and transforms our national identity. This transformation does not eliminate the vestiges of our previous national cultures, but it does start a transformation that over time reveals the mark of Christian culture. We will consider a number of these marks, but today we look at the mark of servant leaders.
It is often argued that there is no such thing as a “Christian culture.” Rather it is held that any culture can be “Christianized.” I can see the truth in that statement, but it is usually part of an argument that does not recognize the existence of the distinct Christian nation we have discussed.The fact is that the Christian nation does indeed have its own distinct culture, and we will examine some of its marks in future posts.
It is important to remember the distinction between nation and State. A nation is a people group with a distinct sense of identity–a culture. A State is the governmental authority over a region. In the North American melting pot, we can see the influence of many cultures. The now diminishing impact of the New Testament has led many to mistakenly identify some North American States with the Christian nation. The United States, Canada, and other States in the world which give evidence of a Christian cultural influence should not be confused with the Christian nation itself.
In Douglas Adams’ sci-fi spoof The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy we are introduced to a civilization which has determined that no one who has any desire to rule is fit to do so. As a result, the method of choosing the the Galactic president is to decide who wants the position least. This sets up the humorous plot line wherein Zaphod Beeblebrox is hunted down in order to enforce his assumption of a position he does not want. It is the fact that this is so contrary to common human experience that sets the backdrop for Adams’ humor. It also highlights one of the primary differences between the culture of the Christian nation and the other nations of the world. Servant leaders are present wherever true Christian culture is expressed.
The 3rd-century Christian view of servant leaders
A while back we had a guest blog post by our 3rd-century friend, and fellow RadicalFish, Origen of Alexandria. In it he said:
But we recognize in each state the existence of another national organization [another organized government of a country] founded by the Word of God, and we exhort those who are mighty in word and of blameless life to rule over Churches. Those who are ambitious of ruling we reject; but we constrain those who, through excess of modesty, are not easily induced to take a public charge in the Church of God. And those who rule over us well are under the constraining influence of the great King, whom we believe to be the Son of God, God the Word. And if those who govern in the Church, and are called rulers of the divine nation–that is, the Church–rule well, they rule in accordance with the divine commands, and never suffer themselves to be led astray by worldly policy.
Notice that while Origen does not express either the extremes, or humor modeled by Adams’ Zaphod Beeblebrox, we do see some similarities. Note that Origen says that the Christian nation of the 3rd-century considered those “ambitious of ruling” as unqualified for leadership.