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14 March 2010 (Rishon/Pesach)
I, Rabbi
A Question of Respect and Titles

Many people these days are claiming to be "restorers" of the Kingdom (Jehovah's Witnesses, some Messianics), "restorers" of Israel (some Messianics, Zionists, etc.), "restorers" of the True Church (Mormons, Campbellite Churches of Christ, Armstrongite Churches of God), or "restorers" of the True Way (Way International). And, of course, they're all very 'important' in their own eyes. I used to wonder, long ago, in my own vanity, if maybe I was one of that illustrious brigade because of certain experiences, revelations and prophecies I had had, forgetting that it is God who is the giver of all good gifts and that we do not manufacture them through our own righteousness, wonderfulness or greatness (assuming we have any).

I recently joined Facebook and was astonished by just how many people claim to be 'apostles' or other important Kingdom dignitaries. There seem to be as many 'prophets', 'apostles', 'emissaries' and even 'shlichim' (if you want to give the title a little bit of extra class and mystique by translating it into Hebrew). Most of these VISP's (Very Important Spiritual Persons) have followings, large and small, their members salary their ministers, and ensure their leaders some local stardom for a season. And some, judging by their huge incomes, personal jet planes and multi-million dollar estates with swimming pools and fleets of cars, who have really large followings, are VVIHSP's....Very, Very Important Hyper Spiritual Persons.

When I was at school I served in the choir for a while. I remember our choirmaster telling us that a good singer needs no microphone or amplification system, and that the best vocalists need no musical accompaniment at all. It would indeed be an interesting exercise to remove microphone and supporting instruments from modern popular singers to see what is left. The result might convince you that you were listening to field of bleating sheep. Just taking the drums away would in all likelihood sink songs and albums alike. And I wonder sometimes what would happen to churches and messianic assemblies if we stripped all titles away and simple called everyone - leaders as well as laity - 'brother' or 'sister'. Quite honestly I am sceptical of anyone who calls himself (or even herself) an 'apostle' or 'prophet' who can't reproduce the same authentic New Testament apostolic or prophetic life and gifts of the first believers.

    "It is not good to eat much honey; so to seek one's own glory is not glory" (Prov.25:27, NKJV).

I used to call myself an apostle. I believe that I qualified because of certain giftings but in others I absolutely did not. That being the case, I saw no justification in continuing to regard myself as one, let alone using the title. Maybe I will become one later, maybe not. It really doesn't matter. What matters is whether one is serving, and whether one is serving to the best of ones ability with the resources one has at hand in the circumstances one finds oneself in. I do know that I am called to be a teacher and, when occasion demands, a preacher, and in those offices I contentedly minister for now.

In Yah'shua's time there was a problem with the religious leaders of the day: the Pharisees (Prushim), Sadducees (Tz'dukim or 'righteous ones') and Scribes (Torah-teachers):

    "They love the places of honour at the seudot (banquet dinners), and the schuls, and the [obsequious] Birkat Shalom (Blessings of peace) greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called by B'nei Adam (the sons of Adam, men), Rebbe (Rabbi). But you are not to have pretentious titles like Rebbe (Rabbi), for one is your Rebbe [Rebbe Melech haMoshiach]: and all of you are Achim b'Moschiach (brothers in Messiah). And do not refer to anyone in the Olam Hazeh (this world) as your Abba (Father), for one is your Av shbaShomayim (My father who is in Heaven)" (Matthew 23:6-9, OJB; cp. other English versions).

It's important that we understand what Yah'shua is saying here. The Editors of the Messianic Renewed Covenant version of the New Testament comment:

    "When looking at this verse one must also look at vss.9-10 and take them in their proper context. 'Rabbi' means 'Great One' or 'Great Master' and must be understood as a title the same as 'Father' in v.10. Is the title greater than the man because we are really not to call our father, 'father'?" (Messianic Renewed Covenant, TNN Press, Kissimmee, FL: 2003, p.28).

We are not to use grandiose titles like 'Rabbi' or 'Holy Father'. It's amazing how many messianics ignore this commandment of Messiah and glory in their titles, some of them using strings of them! (I can think of one who uses four). They justify themselves in all sorts of ways and with all sorts of excuses, such as they are necessary to command respect. But respect comes from the character of the person, not his title, and calling him 'brother' will in no way diminish such genuine respect.

Are there terms of respect in Scripture? Certainly. But there is only one, rendered in most English translations as either "my lord", "my master" or "sir" (some messianic versions like the OJB use "adonai"). You'll find a couple of hundred such references in Scripture. Do a word search sometime and you'll see. Such recognition was usually accompanied by bowing and sometimes prostration and together demonstrate not only respect but humility (not to be confused with worship). Cultures that still use words and gestures of respect are to be admired and praised, such as in Japan, where bowing is common. Amongst the older Norwegian and Swedish people, bowing (sometimes along with clicking of heels) and curtseying is still to be found. I made it a practice to bow before my elders in the local assembly when living in Norway even when I was their pastor, as a gesture of respect and honour.

I have held pastoral, teaching and patriarchal offices over the years but prefer to simply be called 'brother' because as far as salvation is concerened, we are all equal. This is made clear in the Parable of the Labourers, the workers all being paid the same irrespective of the number of hours of work they put in (Mt.20:1-16). The attitude we are to have toward one another is expressed clearly by Yah'shua here:

    "But Yah'shua called them to Himself and said, 'You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave -- just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many" (Matt.20:25-28, NKJV).

This is not, of course, a licence to be disrespectful, as we have seen. It is simply a reminder that we are not to lord it over others because of our positions of authority or leadership.

I would like to encourage you as leaders (and husbands) to remember that we are all servants and equal in Messiah Yah'shua, and remind those who serve under leaders (and wives) that we are to treat our leaders (and husbands) with respect in the way Scripture mandates. Is national cultural programming getting in the way? Get it out of the way and let the Messianic culture in along with the Messiah.


Comments from Readers

Good words to think on! That way of heart is the key to family!

The Heart of a child, we respect each other more highly than ourselves as family. Honor to all and especially those whom lead the way as we become also shaped and formed into the same. Honor as in true respect of each person as we respect our self by the way YHWH told us and that is to love Him with all of our being and to love others that same way we are loving our self. To forgive others, and even to call upon YHWH not to hold sin against others where we've been wronged. That is the step above just forgiving someone, it is to ask our Father to also hold nothing against anyone on our behalf or because of our own existence. Better that any one may find salvation, even the worst person we've ever met, than they would suffer being lost without hope. It is hard to imagine what another person would feel, condemned, caught, without hope. Even they are likely to not see that until the end of this life, but when it happens, how tragic to never have hope of redemption and eternal life.

Helping each other no matter the calling to work together as one body. Or maybe there is cancer growing in the body of Messiah? Will the doctor operate and cut that part out?

And also, we will not let ourselves become merchandise of those who will not honor the "family code" that our only Master has established. To be great in the Kingdom of YHWH is to become a servant of all even without esteem of man but to truly see that it is more important to be found pleasing in the eyes of our true Father YHWH and our Rabbi Yahushua our King whose words are far more valuable and exact than any man has ever come up with.

I always wonder what drives some people I've known or been in contact with who insist on making our Master's words trivial by assuming to take His place, to do what He said not to do in being called by a title to attract the esteem of man or to not understand we do only have one who is to be called our eternal Father. Anyone putting their eye on man will be disappointed, Every Time.

Are some people living in a facade of the power of the Holy Spirit where our Father has sent deceiving spirits because of disobedience? I've seen that and what a deception that is. The only hope is repentance or will some be held in that deception because they love lies more than the truth, to be held until the end?

We esteem highly our parents even as we esteem others more highly than ourselves but that is not found in a title. It is found in love, mercy and forgiveness. I would rather myself to have my immediate family, or children just sit in my lap or around the table and fellowship one on one, where there is the desire that all come to the same place of understanding or just enjoying to be together, of love and of giving part of ourself, sharing our experience in life no matter the age, our acceptance of each other, and what I call being as family to each other. Those who have lived a while on the journey on the path of life may have some good advice or wisdom to impart not to make merchandise but to share as family. The true teachers, preachers, elders... giving of their heart without asking anything in return, take it or leave it, to help and not for the purpose of getting into Babylon's religious games where we see rampant the king of the hill knowledge games even of 'spiritual' leaders or teachers who cannot stand to be corrected in the least by our Master Yahushua and do not realize He may be speaking through His people who are lowly esteemed and disregarded in the knowledge structures of man. We are conditioned by Babylon to look first for title, degree, doctor, rabbi, on and on and to hold what they say on a 'god' level above all others...

Sad we often don't find that true 'family' in religious groups or gatherings where there are 'titled' ministers, teachers, etc., but instead often find a good facade where when the fanfare of the 'dog and pony show' is over, there is strife, debate, anger, all kinds of commandment breaking of the most important ten much less even trying to understand any others and the only relationship is of what can you do for me, give to me or help me with and usually that is centered on money or building up the facade.

I am thankful as well for those fellow true family members, in ministries or elsewhere who've sown into my life the desire for a true relationship with our savior, not that they were perfect in understanding, but in forgiveness and love, as those who have had that true heart that no matter what everything boils down to, Yahushua our Master is always right and helps us always as we seek Him out, even in our failures, a blessing to even know those things we fail in. The brothers and sisters who have contributed to my life I am thankful for and as in YHWH's great plan the reason many of us come to know the salvation of our great savior. To have done what was necessary to operate their church or ministry or just to be who they are living in Babylon, (as in this world), but not to go the way of Babylon or to become seduced by her lies and attractions. Few may be left compared to the majority.

How many are caught up by being obligated to give to the religious group all you are, all your required production of money and everything else, so 'god' will bless you? But that often is only for the ones being made as merchandise for it may be that the leaders will not practice the same to give back to help others in need. Demanding for 'god' and refusing to help individuals for 'god' but only helping those things of the facade, the big buildings, gyms, salaries, etc... are of utmost importance. And while driving along in "MY" Cadillac, surely 'god' hasn't blessed those poor people... (to give to 'ME')... since they are poor and just miserable because they haven't learned to give to 'god'... ("ME"). Could a preacher say that who may have been on a religious channel such as TBN, for real? What a joke that some would pay heed to some of those mere men who are wolves in sheeps clothing. They get more so that they can do more of the same, do they laugh at their own folly that people are so gullibile?

I could drive around my town and find good empty church buildings going to waste because it seems everyone now days just has to get into more debt to get that new fancy large building and gym, and have that fancy sign out front. So they can teach more social church to become spiritually enlightened in the new music of the day, to keep up with the wave of the age of popular doctrine, divide and conquer the old to bring in the new, after all we must have a purpose in life... and lots of people to pay for all of that stuff... And what drives the leaders to keep people coming at all cost? They have a big mortgage to pay because 'god' demands it that way... Where is the line? What is the end of that thinking? And what does it do to people? Think they are not compromised from the greatest to the least? And "No one to say the king has no clothes"... they were already divided and conquered out of the way. And of course in the good old USA we must have a 501C3 government tax status where we've compromised the commandments of our Father YHWH in lieu of the government prohibiting to speak certain things or lose status or be dissolved by federal agents, the same government demanding worship by flag, under 'god'. What does YHWH think about all of this? But did he say something about it already? And Jeremiah 5 and 6 come to my mind.

What a spectacle to those unsaved who look on and refuse to have anything to do with that 'madness'. Even we see the outcome of that 'Baal-Peor' allegiance of the redeemed to the powers that be of this world all in the name of spreading the 'gospel'. But what kind of gospel has that become and is still becoming? Compromise, confusion, and nothing makes sense. Following man instead of YHWH. We cannot serve two masters and have true Shalom. Babylon would be mighty angry if some big wigs issued a divorce decree... but they love their relationship so well, the money and power... the deceit. Enjoyment for a season but it will come to it's fullness one day and enough will be enough.

And maybe that unrest we feel at times about certain things needs to be sought out, maybe it could be the calling of our savior to come to rest in His wisdom. And we may find that it's like pulling out a tooth that needs pulling, don't want to mess with it but sooner or later it has to come out.

Thanks Lev, Blessings (RDR, USA, 14 March 2010).

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