When Saul of Tarsus was stopped in his tracks on the outskirts of Damascus, he heard a voice speaking to him out of blinding light, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?"


            "Who are you, Lord?"


            "I am Jesus whom you are persecuting."


How could this be?  Jesus is at the right hand of the Father in heaven, and Saul of Tarsus is persecuting him?  Indeed, Saul is causing the Lord Jesus deep pain as he inflicts suffering on Jesus' followers, his Body on earth.


The unique thing about Christ's Body on earth is that every follower of Jesus in included in the organism, and every member functions in a serious way as part of its ministry.


 "Here there cannot be Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free man, but Christ is all and in all."  (Colossians 3:11)


"There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus."  (Galatians 3:28)


While this miracle-of-God Body has been gifted with servants who serve according to the grace they've been given—apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers—they are in submission, first to the Lord Jesus, and then to each other.  And to the extent that they remain in submission to the Lord Jesus, they know that guidance from the Spirit comes only to those who stay under the yoke with the master, continuously learning from him who is meek and lowly in heart.  In the Body of Christ there are no elites.


At that time Jesus declared, "I thank thee Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to babes; yea, Father, for such was thy gracious will."

                                                                                    Matthew 11:25-26


The Body of Christ is ruled by Christ, the head.  He is its wisdom, its life, its power.  No person or group dares to usurp the place which belongs only to him. 


Christ's Body or Our Mother?

But something strange happens when we add to this vision of the church as Christ's Body another vision: the church as our Mother. Perhaps through a misinterpretation of Galatians 4:26—"Jerusalem which is above is free, and she is our mother," or perhaps through a felt need for stability in a Christian world of divisions, weird doctrines, and emotional excess, a church which lovingly offers to be our mother has definite appeal.  Mother is waiting.  Return to her bosom and find peace.  All the conflicts and contradictions of splintered Christendom are gone when we find a church which is rooted in history, grounded in tradition, and remains the sole custodian of clear unambiguous truth.  Who wouldn't want to come home to Mother?


But there is cause for concern as we draw near to the appealing arms of Mother Church, whether she is Roman Catholic, Evangelical, Eastern Orthodox, or Main-line Protestant.  Mother Church is always heavy on intellect.  Her heart may seem warm, but her mind is aloof.  She may claim to have the mind of Christ, but she has forgotten Christ's prayer of thanksgiving to the Father,


"That thou hast hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to babes." 


Mother Church has drawn to herself an intellectual elite.  She knows how to spot a superior mind and does not hesitate to cultivate men and women who "have a grasp of the issues," who appreciate the symmetry of good theology, the beauty of tradition, the reflection of the divine in great music and art. 


What happens, meanwhile, to the "babes" who find all this a bit overwhelming?  Let them worship on their level.  Encourage them to participate in the life of the Body with their limited gifts as best they can.  When these people of lesser intellect become uncomfortable with the rarified atmosphere, we try to explain it all to them in terms they can understand.  And if this doesn't work, remind them that "Mother knows best." Hence, Mother Church is inclined to fall into the idolatry of the intellect.  The intellect of gifted men and women rises to a place of influence which belongs only to the Holy Spirit.  This can be observed as the gap widens between the "thinkers" and the ordinary "laymen."


The Body of Christ is not anti-intellectual.  We are commanded to love God with all our mind.  Every believer is expected by the Lord Jesus to have an active mind, a mind which grasps the word of the Lord, ponders it and acts on it; a mind which can discern the difference between a false and true prophet; a mind which no longer thinks like a child.  Jesus rebukes his disciples when they fail to apply their minds to what he is saying. 


"And he said, 'Are you also still without understanding?  Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth passes into the stomach, and so passes on?  But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a man.'" (Matthew 15:16-18) 


 And yet to grasp the truth of the kingdom as Jesus reveals it requires a mind which has added something to its development which is beyond the scope of any university: a mind which has come under the discipline of the Spirit of God.


A man or woman with a limited I.Q. whose mind is renewed by the Spirit can grasp the truth of the living word of God far more readily than a pagan PhD.  Only God knows the native intelligence of the Woman at the Well.  She had never been exposed to the wisdom of the scriptures as Nicodemus had.  Yet Nicodemus could not fathom what that Samaritan woman discerned with ease, as she conversed with Jesus.  Her mind was active, and it was able to recognize the profound in her conversation with this Jewish stranger.   Long before the apostles recognized him as the Messiah, she did.


While Jesus requires his followers to use their minds, he addresses them in such a way that no one is left behind.  He talks over no one's head.  He speaks in parables which simultaneously conceal and reveal.   Whether the mind of the listener finds revelation or confusion in Jesus' words depends on the listener's heart.  Does it see itself as "wise and understanding," or does it approach the incarnate Word with the openness and simplicity of a child?


But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brethren.  And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven.  Neither be called masters, for you have one master, the Christ. 

                                                                                                           Matthew 23:8-10


Our Lord Jesus makes clear that in his church there is to be no intellectual elite.  No inner circle of people with brains who interpret his word to lesser minds.  No believer is ever instructed to submit blindly to any other mind but the Mind of Christ.  Gifted teachers in the Body of Christ are not only accountable to their Master, they are also subject in Christ's name, to their brothers and sisters in the Body.  The Church of Jesus Christ is not our mother, it is his Body.  Whenever any pastor or teacher in the body "condescends to lesser minds," claiming to speak for the church with a "Mother (Church) knows best" attitude, this person is usurping the place which belongs to the Spirit of God alone. 


Hence Jesus warns his followers to "beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.  You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles?" (Matthew 7:15-16) 


"Take heed that no one leads you astray."  (Matthew 24:4) When we were children, our mother knew best, as she warned us to stay clear of the hot stove.  But now that we are grown men and women, the replacement for our mother is not our favorite pastor, priest, theologian, or evangelist, but the Lord Jesus himself. 


Whenever the church claims to be our mother, we can be sure that someone is waiting in the wings, ready to do our thinking for us.  In our search for the authentic fellowship where the Spirit chooses to place us there are no short cuts.  We are to be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.