Serving, not ruling over, change from below, not from above. The way Christ came to be the lowest, to change the world from the bottom up.
Before the 4th century local Christian assemblies were largely independent. Slowly, in the West, Christianity came under the power of Rome and it was governed by laws. Then many of these laws were also extended to state law. We could say that many improvements came to our societies. Marriage, for example, eventually by law necessitated consent by both parties. This stopped the raping and taking of wives captive. It also brought monogamy and the primacy of love rather than families using arranged marriages for their wealth management.
However, what has been resented is church legal power. Why should Christians in local churches be ruled by church law in Rome and not by the Spirit and word of God in their local fellowship of believers? And why should the church govern the society and those who don’t believe? I guess the answer of many is that we desire a well ordered society safe for our families. But in the end this means an empowered, largely middle class church, governing its environment by law rather than by taking up its towel and wash basin to serve sinners.
In early centuries the church didn’t control who married and believers didn’t marry in the churches. Rather, the church sought for the salvation of others through the gospel and its service, love and self-giving within society. This fed through as salt and light into all levels of society and government, bringing changes. But the changes came through Christians serving, not through their power.
We may not like changes in our societies in recent time, but the answer is not power, it is not enforcing our will on others. The answer is always the cross, the cross of Christ and the cross we take up in following Christ, that others may see and all our eyes be opened.
We are those who work through a different kingdom, an upside-down kingdom. That is why the church is truly feared by the powers. But we don’t defeat them by becoming like them. We bear the image of God in Christ and follow his way: new kingdom, new light.