When we think about royalty, or being royal, I fear that we mistake form for function. If that seems cryptic, perhaps a longer explanation would help.
In general, whenever we think about royalty, we think of the external trappings. We think of castles, gold, and glory. We think of elaborate feasts and all of the pomp and circumstance that surrounds court life. This is what I mean by form – all of the superficial, external and seemingly self-serving details of royal living. However, what is the function of a king? Why does he exist?
I know that seems bizarre, after all, isn’t it the nature of kingship to be served? No, at least, not in the biblical sense. “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many,” Mark 10:45.
You see, all of the titles that Christians scramble for nowadays (apostle, prophet, pastor, deacon), those are all servant words at heart. But we have forgotten that. People want a title because they think it will make them important – they want to be recognized as something special. This is as anti-Christian as it comes. In fact, it is down right Pharisaical. In Matthew 23 Jesus cautions us against using titles to flatter one another. He goes so far as to say that we shouldn’t call anyone “leader” because we already have a leader (Jesus, the Anointed). Those seeking titles want the form of authority, but not the function. They want to be recognized, honored, deferred to – none of this was the thought of the early church.
Deacon literally means “servant” or “one who waits on tables”, hence the photo at the top. Pastor is “one who feeds”, like a chef or a shepherd – it also implies that they do the dishes afterward. Prophet simply means “spokesman” and apostle “one who is sent.” As you can see, these are all serving words. None of them implies innate dignity, rather, they imply a willingness to serve. To view others as better than yourself is humility – to serve others (showing them that they are more important than you) is what it means to be great in the Kingdom of God. The greatest, most honorable men and women in the Kingdom wash feet, take our the garbage, wrestle in prayer and suffer hardship. In fact, Paul frequently points to the hardships in his life as proof that he was an apostle!
So let’s do away with pomp and circumstance in the Church. Let’s embrace function and let God give us form. Let’s all take on the title “servant” and, if you really want to me great in God’s eyes, become a “chief servant” or the “slave of all.”
To be royal is to be willing to serve. It is to be willing to sacrifice for the good of others. But it is the service and sacrifice done in secret and not for show that makes us true people of substance and depth, the very thing God desires us to be.