Rowan Williams suggests that those who claim to follow Christ should embrace these three key roles as they seek to live in service to Him: Prophet, Priest, and King. Could this imperative also apply to Christian schools who bear the name of Christ and seek to embrace His identity?
In his landmark book Being Christian, Rowan Williams, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, explores the Christian life through examining baptism, Bible, eucharist, and prayer. He offers accessible and profound insight into what it means to be a Christian.
In addressing baptism, Williams contends that through baptism the Christian takes on the identity of Christ, recovering the “humanity that God first intended.” He then goes on to illuminate the identity of Christ as fulfilling the three key roles of Prophet, Priest, and King. Williams suggests that those who claim to follow Christ should embrace these three key roles as they seek to live in service to Him.
Christian schools typically have the term “Christian” embedded in their name. As such, they publicly identify with Christ, proclaiming that their school seeks to follow Him. Could Williams’ imperative therefore also apply to institutions, organizations, and schools that bear the name of Christ and seek to embrace his identity? If so, perhaps Christian schools can more fully embody their mission, effectively playing their part in the Kingdom story, by organizationally embracing the roles of prophet, priest, and king.
Williams clear states that taking on the identity of Christ is a multi-faceted experience. The identity of Christ brings great peace, joy, dignity, and delight, and, paradoxically, it also thrusts us into the chaos of life, opening our hearts to the suffering of those in dire straights and on the margins. Only by embracing the full identity of Christ, with both delight and chaos, can baptism help us recover our humanity.
People often think of prophets as a type of religious fortune teller, peering into the future, accurately predicting events that are yet to come. Such soothsayers exist today, prognosticating everything from the second coming of Christ to Donald Trump’s return to the White House.
Biblical prophecy, however, has a very different focus and tone; God’s prophets are much more concerned about calling His people into faithfulness than with foretelling future events. As Williams puts it, “they act and speak to call the people of Israel back to their own essential truth and identity. They act and speak for the sake of a community’s integrity, its faithfulness to who it is really meant to be.”
The Christian school that understands its prophetic role is actively engaged in exploring truth, identity, integrity, and faithfulness for Christians in the 21st century, seeking biblical wisdom to address the complex task of being salt and light in a secular pluralistic society. Prophets are unpopular as they prick at the collective conscience of a people. Their message resonates with some and disturbs others, placing the prophet in a risky position.
Does your Christian school embrace the risk of articulating a prophetic voice for biblical faithfulness and integrity today?
The Old Testament priestly role was one of mediation, interpretation, and representation, bridging the gap between God and man. After the intimate and harmonious relationship between God and humanity was shattered, a priest was needed to hold the relationship together until it could be fully restored. The priest is a mediator, a mender, a healer, and restorer.
As such, when a Christian school embraces its priestly role it is called upon to “mend shattered relationships between God and the world through the power of Christ and his Spirit.” Such a Christian school seeks to build bridges and restore hope—not shying away from situations of deep hurt, brokenness, and pain, but gravitating towards them in the power of Christ to seek reconciliation and restoration.
Where does your Christian school enter situations of brokenness and pain working towards reconciliation?
In the Old Testament, the king was responsible to design, implement, and enforce laws and procedures that would keep the people close to God. The people looked to the king for justice, for the development and flourishing of a just society. The prophetic voices in Israel often called on the king to ensure justice, particularly for the vulnerable and oppressed—the widow, the orphan, and the foreigner.
Williams says that our royal calling, “is about how we freely engage in shaping our lives and our human environment in the direction of God’s justice, showing in our relationships and our engagement with the world something of God’s own freedom, God’s own liberty to heal and restore.”
A Christian school, adopting its kingly role, recognizes both internal and external ramifications. Internally, this leads to the development of a school climate or ethos which is just, fair, and right, allowing for the flourishing of all members of this community, with particular attention to those who are vulnerable and oppressed. Externally, this school engages with issues of social justice, advocating for what is noble, right, and true, once again with particular focus on those who are vulnerable and oppressed. Who are vulnerable and oppressed among us and in our society? Jesus gives us a glimpse in the parable of the sheep and goats in Matthew 25.
If Williams is right, then through baptism we participate in the identity of Christ as prophet, priest, and king. May our schools, as we identify ourselves with Christ, embody the character and nature of Christ as prophet, priest, and king. May this allow us to shine brightly in our small corner of God’s immense, diverse, and vibrant Kingdom.
SCSBC Executive Director