Laity? What does that mean?

Laity is not a term typically found outside the church.  Though it was a common word in Jesus’ day and the days of the early church, today it has become less and less common.  For many, the term laity simply designates the “regular people” in the church or those who are not clergy.  It has become a term of distinction to mark out those who aren’t in professionalized ministry or those who are just “church folk.”  Even in Jesus day, it was a generic term.  The word laity (laos in Greek) meant people or nation.  There was nothing special about the word.

And yet, what we know is God is in the business of taking what is common, setting it apart, and giving it greater significance and purpose.  God does this with water, with wine, with bread, and with people.  1 Peter 2:10 says, “Once you were no people (laos), but now you are God’s people (laos).”  In other words, once we were ordinary.  Once we our purpose didn’t revolve around anything united.  We lived for ourselves.  Or we lived life at the whims of our desire or simply reacting to situation or circumstance.

Yet God graciously called us out of what was ordinary and into something which mattered.  God called us into a group of people (laity) who would make a difference in the world.  We have been marked as God’s children, as God’s people.  We are no longer common but divine; we are a group set apart for God’s purposes in the world.  God takes the ordinary and sets its aside for God’s extraordinary purposes.

Sometimes, I have to admit, I don’t feel all that extraordinary.  My life is messy at times.  My schedule is all over the place.  My parenting skills are evolving.  My love isn’t always perfect.  But the irony of all this I have discovered is God takes all our common, messy lives and draws from it wonderful stories of redemption and renewal. The same is true in the church.  God takes our lack of resources, our lack of time, and our lack of knowledge and from it transforms lives.  It’s amazing and humbling to be part of and to witness.  We are not just ordinary people, we are God’s people.