Call no man your father

They love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi by others. But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers. And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ.

We evangelical flavored Christians seem to not understand why the more liturgical traditions address their ministers as “Father” and yet are very comfortable addressing our ministers as Pastor (with a capital ‘P’). I have often said that the Protestant translation of Pope is "Senior Pastor". When I worked on the pastoral staff of a church a few years ago people sometimes addressed me as Pastor Bob - it kind of creeped me out. Yet, sadly, I did get a bit of a religious buzz (another word for pride?) when they did it.

I guess the religious buzz is a part of the problem. The focus on titles, be they religious or secular, is a bit of a dark flavor of pride. Five years ago a person disagreed with me on this and said that titles are simply a sign of respect. Here is how I responded to her comment:
Regarding titles, I guess I'm just a little less formal than you are. I think that titles such as doctor or judge (i.e. your honor) may be appropriate in the hospital or courtroom but in a friendly discussion among friends it gets pretty weird. Likewise in a church setting it may be appropriate to address a person in a formal way but in a non-professional setting it is a bit weird to me. First names are much warmer and friendlier ... and can be communicated with absolutely no disrespect.
For me the issue gets to the heart of what Jesus is teaching in the above passage. It goes back to motive - both in those who have titles and those who talk to them.

Lord help us to know how to be respectful and not feed the pride in others.

4 comments:

  1. I've found it helpful to use the title when referring to a member of the clergy in conversation with another. I.e. "Pastor Bob said..."

    I've always treated the clergy like anybody else, though I'm more prone to bring up theological and philosophical questions around them.

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  2. I can understand that Mike. I wonder though.. if both parties know who "Pastor Bob" is then maybe using "Bob" or "Bob Smith" would be sufficient? If the other party doesn't know "Pastor Bob" then I doubt that invoking his name will be helpful. Just a thought.

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  3. Food for thought as you so often do!!!

    Hopefully I'll be reading my favorite blogs again.

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  4. I think it's a habit for most people. At my last church I always referred to the pastor by his first or his first and last names.

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