Lent 2012: Day Fourteen

Matthew 23:9 And call no one your father on earth, for you have one Father—the one in heaven.

The first thing I need to say after picking this verse is that I am Anglican and am happy to call my priest and the assistant priest Father Simon and Father David. Am I wrong to? Are other Anglicans wrong to? Are Roman Catholics wrong to? Not necessarily no.

It’s day 14 of Lent and I’ve been picking out a single Bible verse and writing about it since day 1. I’ve struggled, actually, to find a verse that I can quote sensibly. Often leaving a single verse on its own without understanding the context of the rest of the passage and the language behind it, is destructive rather than inspiring and ‘holy’. As the verse I’ve picked out today may seem.

So why can calling a male priest “Father” be justified? Yahoo contact “Irishgirl” sums it up brilliantly…

Why do christians and roman catholics call the pope ‘father’??

Because they read the entire Bible rather than take one sentence out of context. By examining Matt. 23 it’s clear that Jesus didn’t intend for his words here to be understood literally.The whole passage reads, “But you are not to be called ‘rabbi,’ for you have one teacher, and you are all brethren. And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. Neither be called ‘masters,’ for you have one master, the Christ” (Matt. 23:8–10). If Christ really was preaching against using titles it would not only be wrong to call people father, but also wrong to call people teacher, doctor (‘doctor’ is simply the Latin word for “teacher’), Mr., Mrs. (forms of the word ‘master’). But throughout the bible people are referred to as teacher, master and even father (Acts 7:2, Rom. 9:10).

Christ clearly isn’t teaching against using certain words. Christ was trying to show the scribes and Pharisees how sinful and proud they were for not looking humbly to God as the source of all authority and fatherhood and teaching, and instead setting themselves up as the ultimate authorities, father figures, and teachers. Catholics (and others who use the title ‘father’) recognize that the spiritual fatherhood comes through God just like Paul said “I do not write this to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children. For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel” (1 Cor. 4:14–15).

And so you see, understanding the context of the Bible, and taking it seriously but not literally, is very important.

What Jesus is actually saying, is that it is when the title is misused, when any title is given which they assume means they are better than others. This does happen, but the title of ‘Father’, you see, doesn’t apply in this way to all priests. We are equal. God is our Shepherd.

Matthew 23:9 And call no one your father on earth, for you have one Father—the one in heaven.

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