Functional Titles vs Religious Titles
What about calling someone by a professional title?
You know, it would depend. If it was a brother who was a doctor and I was in his office with his employees and nurses around, I would probably call him “Doctor.”
So it’s okay?
When dealing in the world, it is okay. If it was a judge, I would probably call him, “Your Honor” even if he wasn’t very honorable.
How about calling a brother by a title like we use for someone who is an attorney?
If we were sitting here at this table, no way would I call him by his professional title if he is a brother. No way! But if I was in his world and profession, that might be different. For example, if I was in your school, I would call you by a respectful title like “Principal” if you had such a title because of the students and employees. If we are on the turf of that world and people use that title for you, then I would use that title too, in that setting. But would I call you by that title while I am sitting right here? No way! You’re my sister!
So in the Church we should discourage any titles?
We should discourage any religious titles, because Jesus did. But people are so ready to defend them… “What’s wrong with titles? Why should we ‘Call no man Teacher’? The Bible says there’s a gift of Teacher. How can you say, ‘Call no man Teacher’?”
Ah, but Jesus forbid calling any man “Teacher John,” “Teacher Benny,” “Master So-and-So,” “Reverend So-and-So,” “Rabbi So-and-So,” “Father So-and-so.” They are all exactly the same thing.
So using professional titles depends on the place where we happen to be?
Let’s say you are a doctor and we are here together in this room. I would not under any circumstances call you “Doctor” and then your last name. I would not do that because you’re my brother! You are part of me and we’re family. Would your children or your wife call you “Doctor So-and-So”? If they were playing with you and making a joke they might! But that wouldn’t be your title to your family.
Then let’s say we were together at your place of employment—your doctor’s office. I would probably then call you by your doctor title. However, if there wasn’t anybody else in the room, I’d probably call you by your first name. But if I was with your employees, I want them to respect you, so I would probably honor that position that you have in the world. That would be true whether it’s a principal or a doctor or a lawyer. But a religious title—that’s very different. If it is a spiritual application, we should be very careful about anything that isolates, separates, or elevates, no matter where we happen to be.
Here in our country we use a certain word to mean “older brother.” As a mother, I will call an older brother by this word. And a little child will call me by a certain name, like “mom.”
But those aren’t spiritual titles. Those are functional titles. Those aren’t religious titles. Those are family tools or work tools. That’s very different than a religious title. So I’m glad you asked that.