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Created to Become Unequal

Leviticus 21:1 And the LORD said unto Moses, Speak unto the priests the sons of Aaron, and say unto them…

On some sense, I am sure that everyone is created equal, but I have yet to define what that sense might be. From birth we are all different. Some are stronger, some are hairier, some have different parts, and those differences confer varying responsibilities and powers.

God holds the physical descendants of Aaron to a higher standard than he holds the rest of us. For example, he deals with their sexual immorality much more harshly. The daughters of Aaron must remain virgins until married. If they don’t, the penalty isn’t just stoning. It’s burning.

Aaron’s sons are held to a higher standard than his daughters. Emor gives a short list of things that a priest may not do that other of God’s people may:

  • Touch the corpse of anyone who is not an immediate relative.
  • Shave his head or disfigure his beard.
  • Marry a woman who has sex outside of marriage or who has been divorced.
  • Drink alcohol while serving in the sanctuary.
The High Priest has an even higher standard than that. He may not
  • Touch the corpse of even immediate relatives.
  • Marry a widow or any non-virgin.
  • Leave the sanctuary while performing the duties of his office.
  • Bring anything unclean into the sanctuary.

Paul alluded to this same concept when he told Timothy and Titus his standards for Church leaders. He never intended those lists to be taken as absolute laws for all believers. (Or even for all church leaders, for that matter! They aren’t priests serving in the Temple, after all.) He was illustrating how good leaders must have a different code of behavior. There is no sin in preparing and burying a corpse nor in having a rebellious child, but God said that his priests shouldn’t do those things.

That God’s standards for some people might be different than his standards for others only surprises the inheritors of the so-called Enlightenment. Many good things have come from the philosophical and theological revolutions of the past, but some things have also been lost and corrupted.

Higher Standards for Higher Position

Character in leadership matters.
I mean to make myself a man, and if I succeed in that, I shall succeed in everything else. -James A. Garfield

God commanded the people of Israel to be holy, set apart from the world for a special purpose. He wanted them to live to a higher standard, to be a beacon to the whole world, pointing every other nation to the Creator. If the people of Israel were to be holier than other nations, how much more was the High Priest of Israel to be holier than other priests?

The Levitical High Priest has a number of restrictions on his behavior that other Israelites do not, things that would not be a sin if he were not High Priest. All of those restrictions are intended to protect his ability to serve the nation. The precise relationship between the restriction and his effectiveness as High Priest might not be obvious at first glance, some less so than others. For example, it’s not a sin for a man to marry a widow, not even a king. It’s not even a sin to marry a foreign woman so long as she worships the God of Israel. The High Priest, on the other hand, may only marry a virgin of the people of Israel. He may not marry a widow, divorcee, a woman of “loose morals,” nor any foreign woman no matter her faith or exemplary character.

People today see such rules as irrelevant or even backwards. What difference does it make if a national leader’s wife has a “history”? If you are serious about living by God’s rules, you can probably think of a number of reasons it might matter. There is an enormous gap between the people who see value in morally impeccable leadership and those who want their leaders to be just like them.

The problem here is cultural and, more importantly, it is spiritual. You and I can see why it matters that our pastors or Presidents be above reproach. Other people obviously cannot. They believe that if he makes the right promises, says the right words, and looks good on camera, then he must be qualified for the job. If his skin is like mine or if he’s liked by people like me, then he must understand me, represent me. Right?

Of course, not. Skin color and pretty words have no relationship to a man’s ability to lead, let alone his ability to keep from embarrassing his people in front of the entire world.

Character matters. Experience matters. An understanding and love of American ideals of liberty and faith in God matters. If a man wants to be the pastor of your church or the leader of your nation, his past needs to be a completely open book. His character and resume must be exemplary. His family must be respectful and respectable. If a man hides his past, he should be immediately rejected for any significant position of spiritual or political leadership. If his family is in shambles, his reputation in tatters, no further consideration need be given. He is not worthy of our trust as a people.

We are Americans, and we are Christians. Our leaders must be too. Without reservation.

We are commanded to be a holy people, lighting the way to God for all other peoples. If we hold ourselves to a higher standard—and we absolutely should—how much higher should be the standard of any man who would be our leader?