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Without Blemish

The Pastor of the Church that Liz and I attend thought to tackle the book of Leviticus for his next ministry series and encouraged the congregation to read it along with him. It was an offer that I was very happy to take up. While reading in chapter 21 of the holiness required of the priests I was struck by the words, (verse 16, GNB) The Lord commanded Moses to say to Aaron, "None of your descendants who has any physical defect may present the food offering to me. This applies for all time to come." The verses that follow spell out the extent of the physical defects that apply.

So often I was reminded, when in ministry myself, of the need for the Lord's servants to be pure. Usually it was related to marital purity and fidelity, particularly in respect to divorce and remarriage. My ministry colleagues were very committed to the notion that divorce, for any reason, automatically disqualified one from ministry. It's interesting to note that it was citing passages like this that encouraged such a rigid view. Perhaps verse 7, which reads, "A priest shall not marry a woman who has been a prostitute or a woman who is not a virgin or who is divorced; he is holy." was the motivation behind such strict interpretations.

In the NT, where we are all described as priests of the Living God (1 Peter 2:9, Revelation 1:6), service for Christ is described as totally inclusive, in that there is meant to be no restriction on the basis of gender, ethnicity or class. Even so, some continue to hold to priestly purity passages like the above to restrict some, namely women, from ministry opportunities within the Body of Christ. If one were to fully follow that paradigm, not only would all women be disallowed but males who had either divorced and remarried, or had married a divorcee, or a woman who was no longer a virgin, or, get this, had any physical defect, would be disbarred! That last requirement alone would rule out a lot of people who currently serve the Lord in the churches of today's world, let alone the others.

Clearly these kinds of restrictions applied to a particular time in Israel's history where the priestly class were representatives and mediators of God to the people and were required to mirror God's holiness. This is no longer the case. There is only one mediator between God and humanity, that is the man, Christ Jesus (1 Timothy 2:5), which frees us all to minister God's grace to one another. Thankfully, we live in the age of grace and these kinds of restrictions for Christian service do not apply. That is not to say that now that we belong to Christ we do not seek to be holy (1 Timothy 1:9) but that our previous life experience, assigned gender, ethnicity, class, or even physical disabilities, do not disqualify us from serving Jesus. His grace is sufficient and His strength is made perfect in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9,10).

Comments

Very well stated. I wish more people would understand that male rule places an additional mediator between women and God. When I have tried to mention this, a common response has been, "But I *have* a *personal* relationship with Jesus."

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