Saturday, February 19, 2011

Knowing The Bible And Knowing The Truth, Part 3

Before I address "call no man father", I want to say again that my intent is not to sway anyone's beliefs or to change anyone's mind. My goal is simply to demonstrate how, more often than we think, we read the Bible through the lens of our already in-place belief systems and interpretations. I am using the passage where Jesus said to call no man father because, for me, it was a big issue with me. I was taught in the early days of my new life that this was heretical and that the Roman Catholics used it to control their people, so forth and so on. When I finally began to look into it, I discovered that my approach to the Bible was much like eating off from a buffet: I was picking what I liked and skipping what I didn't like. So, my goal is to demonstrate how God is humbling me in my reading of Scripture.

"Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven" (Matthew 23:9)  

In the past, anytime I would read this verse, I instantly interpreted it as addressing the Roman Catholic practice of calling priests "father". (There are other denominations that have priests and address them as fathers; but, early on in my new life, I was taught "Romo-phobia" - the fear of any and all things that are Roman Catholic or even look Roman Catholic.) So, without ever questioning my automatic interpretation and application, I marked this verse down as clear and convincing proof that Jesus believed just like I did. 

But, one day, someone pointed out to me that Paul, Peter, Stephen, James, and even Jesus called men "father(s)" (Acts 7:2, Rom. 9:10, Luke 16:24, 30; John 8:56; James 2:21, Acts 3:13, 5:30). The word in the Greek is "pater" - it's the word that we get "paternal, paternity" from it means one's biological male parent. So, that being the case, if Jesus meant what He said, then we are forbidden to call our biological dads "father". 

Along with that prohibition, He also said (pulling from several renderings here) call no man Rabbi, Teacher, Master, and Leader. The Apostles used all of these in their epistles, speaking of men in the church. They called Jesus "rabbi" (remember, even though Jesus was God in flesh, they knew him only as a man). 

Finally, I sat down with a concordance and looked the words "father", "teacher", "rabbi", "master" - and all their variants. (I encourage you to do the same. It's time consuming, but it's worth it.) Once I saw how the Apostles freely used these words in their writings and addresses and sermons, I realized that I had been reading these scriptures (even the scriptures where the Apostles used the words) through my own arrogant pre-approved beliefs that I had learned and regurgitated without feeling any need for self-examination or humility.

So, what did Jesus mean? I believe if you will start in Matthew 22:15 and read through the entire chapter of Matthew 23, it will be self-evident. But here are some keys that I believe clarify Jesus' words: "Do not do according to their deeds; for they say things and do not do them" (23:3). The Pharisees and Sadducees had exalted themselves to a position in their own minds that God never gave them. Jesus acknowledged their place or office of authority as God-given and told the disciples to obey them. But then, He told them, "Just don't be like them." Then, in verse 4 and in verses 13-33, He explains what they would do that was so horrible. But, ultimately, I believe verses 11 - 12 sum up the attitude that Jesus disliked in them: "But the greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted." That was their problem.

And it was mine, too. 

And it was evident in how I approached the Bible...

1 comment:

Lvka said...

Perhaps more pertinent examples would be:

1 Corinthians 4:14, 4:15, 4:17;
Philemon 1:10;
1 Timothy 1:2, 1:18;
2 Timothy 1:2, 2:1;
Titus 1:4;

Philippians 2:22;
1 Thessalonians 2:11;
1 Timothy 5:1;