Tuesday, February 10

The most ignored words of Jesus

I think some of the most ignored words of Jesus are to be found in Matthew 23:1-11, especially verses 6-11...

"They love the place of honor at banquets and the chief seats in the synagogues, (7) and respectful greetings in the market places, and being called Rabbi by men. (8) "But do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers. (9) "Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. (10) "Do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ. (11) "But the greatest among you shall be your servant...

I'll mail anyone reading this a s/.100 bill (not to be confused with US $100 it's an old extinct Ecuadorian bill worth about $0.004) if they can show me anywhere in the New Testament where servants of God are referred to by a title before their name, rather than by description of their giftings or functions. For example, Paul never refers to himself as the 'Apostle Paul', it is always something like:

Paul, a bond-servant of Jesus Christ (Rom.1:1)
Paul, called as an apostle (I Cor.1:1)
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus (II Cor.1:1)
Paul, an apostle (not sent from men...) (Gal.1:1)

You can look up the rest of Paul's epistles for yourselves. In every case he describes his calling, gifting, function within the Body of Christ--AFTER his name, not as a title proclaiming his accomplishments or importance.

In Christ's Kingdom we are all on the same level as brothers and sisters in Christ. We are all "bond-servants" of Jesus Christ. The only thing that differentiates us is our gifting, or function within the Body of Christ.

If this is the biblical pattern, why do we continue to practice the use of honoring one another with titles such as Dr. So-And-So, or Rev. So-And-So? Why do we refer to servants as "Pastor John" or as they do here, "Licenciado Pastor Reverendo Pedro Gomez" (they tack on ALL of the titles they can think of to make sure everyone knows how important they are!)

In our own mission work we use only the terms "hermano" (brother), and "hermana" (sister) for everyone. We try to be very careful to not give the impression that some of us are somehow more important, or "more called" than others. In any of our meetings ANYONE is welcome, even those meetings of a sensitive nature. We don't want to do anything that would give an impression that some are more qualified or more important to deal with matters than others. As a result, our poorer, uneducated brethren are often used of God to accomplish extraordinary things as they are encouraged to use their spiritual gifting, rather than something they have been made to feel inferior about through no fault of their own.

At first glance it may seem I am making a big deal about nothing. But is it a big deal? I think so. Allow me to put forth my case a bit more, I'm just getting warmed up! :-)

Galatians 3:28 speaks of, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for YOU ARE ALL ONE in Christ Jesus." James 2 speaks about not holding an attitude of personal favoritism towards those more fortunate than the poor by making "distinctions among yourselves." Are not titles a distinction amongst us?

All of us have heard introductions of fellow believers beginning something like...

"Today we have with us one of the most influential and respected pastors in America. His church has grown from 0 to 50,000 in just five years...certainly one of the most humble men on the planet...and one of the most insightful visionaries in Southern Baptist life today, it is a great honor for me to present to you Dr. _____ (applause). Why can't we simply introduce each other as, "John Jones, a dear brother serving our Lord in Oklahoma...?"

Am I against successful ministry, or education and learning? No, certainly not. I strive for these things in my own life. We highly encourage everyone we work with to get as much training, education, learning as they possibly can throughout their lifetime and within their means to do so. We rejoice in the victories and successes of those we co-labor with.

The problem comes that education, titles, ordination, recognition, and degrees have a way of separating us from one another. We unintentionally create religious castes amongst ourselves. We invite the pastors to come to certain meetings, or the "professionals" to a prayer breakfast. We single out "leaders" for certain events, and so forth. All of this has a subtle way of silently killing off the "priesthood of all believers."

Those without the public recognition of their "importance" begin to feel and ACT like second-class Kingdom citizens. They begin to expect Rabbis with the titles to do the work of the Kingdom. Since they are just "ordinary" Christians, the attitude quickly becomes one of mediocrity and complacency, and business as usual. I am not "called" so therefore it is not my responsibility...

Therein lies the reason that 2000 years after Christ gave us the Great Commission, we are no closer to fulfilling the task! Imagine what would happen if every single Christian really understood themselves as a "CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God's OWN POSSESSION..." Knew they were a front-line soldier in the advance of the Kingdom? That the Great Commission is not just for the Drs. the Revs. the Pastors, the professionals, but for ALL OF US!

'Nuff said on the subject for now. Now you know why they ship us quirky missionaries off to the far extremes of the earth! :-)

13 comments:

El Perro said...

Y agregaría Juan Carlos Ortíz en su excelente libro "Discípulo" (1974) y aún el título de hermano a veces lo usamos porque no nos sentimos como tales... en las verdaderas familias no nos llamamos "Hermano Fulano o Hermana Zutana" sino por nuestros nombres o aún por nuestros apodos (nicknames).

Tus letras SIEMPRE me son de bendición, nos leemos!

John Marklew said...

Hi Guy

Very inciteful.

I am ashamed to admit that I can often fall for this one especially when amongst other church "leaders". My latest incarnation of this kind of thing and one that I am fighting against, was my proud proclamation of "church planter". It started becoming my identity and title not just something that God involved me in. It's amazing how easy it is to move a word from a being a verb to a noun.

I think you're right to use the simple phrase 'brother' or 'sister' or the one I often use 'friend'. But I find that often people want to elavate you and introduce you in such a way that you are not simply 'John' but someone special that they know and that can often start a relationship off on the wrong footing. How do you deal with this kind of thing?

Blessings

John

GuyMuse said...

El Perro,

No he leido "Discipulo" pero parece ser un libro que me gustaría ver algún dia. Buen punto en cuanto a referirnos por nuestros nombres familiares, ya que en verdad somos familia! Gracias una vez más por tus palabras de apoyo. Que el Señor te siga ricamente bendiciendo allá en México en tu ministerio.

GuyMuse said...

John,

Thanks for stopping by and for the comment. I clicked on two of your blogs (Trinity Broadfield, and Mission X) and enjoyed reading through several of the posts. I especially enjoyed your testimony! It is nice to know you are involved in church planting there in the UK. Keep up the good work.

As for titles, I like the one you have chosen for yourself: Jesus Freak! :)

Dienekes said...

Guy,

I've never commented here (or very much anywhere else), but I've been reading your blogs the last few days and have been genuinely blessed by the way you think. Your past posts about (1) who has authority to baptize and (2) working with pentecostals and charismatics in mission work has been VERY consistent with my own thinking/struggling/reading on these matters in recent weeks. Your views seem to me Biblical in both letter and spirit, which is refreshing.

This topic, too, is something I've been on a soapbox in my mind (and my living room--just ask my wife) about for some time. I hadn't thought so much about the titles we use, but the mindset of Christian castes which is behind the use of these titles. It is a deadly disease in the Kingdom, I think. It causes both division between brothers/sisters and engenders a sense of apathy among many who, in reality, have been called by our King as frontline soldiers.

Thanks for your posts; I'll be back regularly. Praying for you, your family, and your ministry as I click, "Publish".

GuyMuse said...

Dienekes,

Thanks for stopping by and for the kind comment. We are still very much on a steep learning curve about the things written on this blog. Much has come about through what we have experienced and learned as we are about doing these things. We don't always get everything right, but try to keep an open mind as to what the Lord is trying to show us and to read His Word without the "colored lenses" that so often distort the truths of God's Word.

Feel welcome to comment on anything whether you agree 100% or not with what is shared. I think in this way we all can learn from one another.

John Umland said...

Fantastic post. We practice micro-church here at my job. We looked at Luke 9 today and the contrast between the disciples' claims on who is the greatest and Jesus', who elevates the one who welcomes a child in his name. The humble sunday school teachers are the heroes, not the ones too busy living up to their titles.
God is good
jpu

Alan Knox said...

Guy,

Those words are certainly ignored. I've heard too many introductions that sounded exactly like your example.

There are other ignored words, too, like "Love one another".

-Alan

GuyMuse said...

John,

I am convinced that the true heroes of the faith are people we have never heard of and probably won't until we reach Heaven.

Alan,

Your own series of "Scripture...As We Live It" was very much an inspiration for this post. It is amazing to me how we are so keen to think we are obeying Scripture, when in reality we are following our interpretations of Scripture.

Jonathan said...

Hey, great post. When I saw the title of the post I thought you may be talking about Jesus' teachings on rich and poor... something I'm trying to get my head around lately, and am having a hard time seeing many examples of in Christians around me. But nope, you've highlighted another teaching that Christians have also chosen to ignore. Appreciate your post, thanks.

GuyMuse said...

Jonathan,

There are actually quite a few words of Jesus that we ignore. This is just one of them. Maybe you could blog on the rich/poor words that so many of us continue to ignore.

Bryan Riley said...

Excellent, Most Special Super Top Dog Missionary Guy Muse. :)

GuyMuse said...

Bryan,

Looks like you need to reread the post. I think you missed the point! :)