Hierarchy in the kingdom

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By Dr. Adenike Yesufu
Matthew 13 tells of Jesus speaking to the multitude in parables and how in private he would explain the meanings of those parables to his Apostles.

One of them asked Jesus why he always spoke to the multitude in parables, Jesus’ response was astounding: Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven but to them it has not been given. Jesus just affirmed hierarchy.

The inner and the outer circle as I call it. In fact, there was a time when Jesus told his Apostles that they were no more servants, but that they have been upgraded to become friends, a more privileged position.

Hierarchy is a difficult concept. Most people do not like hierarchy. But we live in a hierarchical world.

Hierarchy is needed for governance, for structure, for functioning and for allocation of responsibilities and resources. In all organizations, both secular and religious, by virtue of their positions, some people have more privileges than others.

That should not be surprising to us because there is hierarchy in God”s kingdom. That is why there are archangels and angels.

Hierarchy comes with intrinsic and inherent power, which may not be bad in itself. I think the problem is how people choose to use that power. Power is the ability to do. Power exercised by an individual is labelled as either good or bad depending on its use.

In a positive sense, power is perceived as valuable when it enables the holder to achieve goals, but viewed negatively when used as a weapon of tyranny, ruthlessness, deviousness, and for upholding undemocratic processes.

In the Bible, Lucifer used power negatively. He became overly ambitious and said, “I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God. I will be like the most high”. (Isaiah 14). Paul used his power to oppress the early Christians but he had a change of heart when he encountered Jesus.

In our world, hierarchy is used as an agent of oppression, of marginalization, of domination, in the work place, within the family, in the community, everywhere. It is also used to play god in some instances where life and death decisions are cruelly made for others.

Power is used to deprive others of their personal and innate rights. In many cases the powerful demonstrate little or no sensitivity to those perceived as powerless.

Jesus used hierarchy for the empowerment of his disciples. He invested a lot of time training them.

However bestowed with privilege and power, there were times when the disciples would attempt to overstep their boundaries, like when they would try to prevent some people from having access to their Master, or when they tried to forbid someone use Jesus’ name to cast out demons. But Jesus would always disallow their over-handedness.

Jesus carried hierarchy to the next level, when he selected peter to be first among equals. He told him, when you have been converted, strengthen the brethren. That sums up the godly use of power. Pass it on, let others benefit from what you have. But at times power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Just as hierarchy could be a source of discouragement and disillusionment, it could also be a motivating factor; an opportunity to strive for upward mobility, a determined effort to be greater and not stay at the bottom. Hierarchy is a very delicate issue to broach.

Can the powerful be more mindful of how power is exerted? Should the powerless live in perpetual fear of the weight of power over and above them? Jesus affirmed hierarchy on earth as it is in heaven in demonstration of the right use of power.

His own are expected to appreciate the blessings of being placed at the top of the hierarchy. They must use their privileged position not to lord it over, but to empower others as peter was instructed to do.

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