Respect Doesn't Need a Title
In our country here, we are very polite with one another. We call each other by titles out of respect. For example, we call someone “Brother ___” as a sign of respect. Or if someone is older than me, like Paul, I don’t want to call him just Paul, because the people around us will think that I am being disrespectful.
Let me offer something…what you are saying then, is that Paul didn’t respect Silas? And Silas didn’t respect Timothy because they didn’t use titles with each other?
No, no no. I am talking about in the context of Filipino culture.
I’m suggesting that it’s not just here in this country that people want to use titles. It is true that people everywhere want to use titles—in any country. In the Jewish world, guess what Ananias did when Paul was a Jew? He called him “Brother Saul.” But when he became a Christian, it never ever happened again. In the Jewish culture they did it too, just like they do here in this culture.
I might use a title for an older, unbelieving man who is “worthy of respect” by the world’s standards. If it is a decent human being who is older than I am, I might call him “Mister.” I might do that. Saul was “Brother Saul” as a Jew, since the Jewish people use those titles because they want it as a sign of respect. But it never happened again with Paul after he became a Christian. Why is that? It’s the same reason that our children don’t call us by titles. It’s because now we are Family.
Now here’s a big question for you. Would you, Paul, mind if James simply called you Paul? Do you mind? Is it ok with you?
No, I just don’t mind.
Okay, so now you will not be showing respect to him if you still use a title since it doesn’t matter to him!
I understand how you feel and I’m not making fun. I understand that cultures can weigh heavily on us. But there is another culture in the Kingdom of God that’s about intimacy. Using titles is not a sign of respect. If Scott wanted to call me by a title I would consider that disrespectful because God never acts like that.
As another example, if I just call my grandfather by his name only…that is no good.
But you call him “Grandpa” which is not a title but a description, right?
And you might call him “Sir” if it’s a tense moment, right? “Yes, Sir!”
But that’s different than “Brother This” and “Pastor That.” That’s not respect, that’s religion. Now if I want to say, “This is Paul, my dear, much-respected brother,” then that’s a description of the respect I have for him. If I just call him “Brother Paul, Brother Paul, Brother Paul”…I don’t think that’s really respect, because I would not want anybody to call me that even though I am older than some people. I have a half-century of living behind me. I’m fifty years old, but seven-year olds do not call me Mister, Brother, Pastor or any title. They call me Mike.
I just love the one description that you mentioned when you said, “Paul, my brother.” I like it that way.
Yes, because that means something! I have to work a little bit and think it through to say, “This man is very dear to me.” I have to work to do that. Using “Brother” or “Pastor” is cheap and lazy and careless. We’re so used to using titles because it’s a habit. We don’t even think the right way about it anymore. It’s not a sign of respect at all because it just rolls off my tongue carelessly.
But it is very respectful to say, “This is my much-respected, dear brother Paul. And I want you to know that I look up to this man.” I put a little work into that, because I do genuinely respect him, and I want to show him respect. But I wonder how respectful it really is to use a meaningless title that rolls off my tongue without any thought?
So respect, I totally agree with. And I understand that this is radical—I understand. But number one, it’s not in the Bible. That’s a very key point. Agreed? When Paul was a Jew he was called by a title, but when he was a Christian he was never ever called by a title again. And he was an apostle and caught up into the third heaven! This is a very godly man who wrote two-thirds of the New Testament. He was called Brother Saul before he was a Christian but he was never called “Brother Saul” or “Brother Paul” ever again as far as we know. It was never once recorded. It was recorded before he was a Christian, but never recorded after.
That’s meaningful to me and I try to make a note of things that are said or not said in the Scriptures because I want to live that way. What you do see is “Timothy, my brother” and “My dearest brother, so-and-so,” and “My dearest sister, so-and-so, she’s like a mother to me.” That touches me. That’s real and a sign of respect. Read Romans 16 and you will see many, many signs of respect. But you will never ever once see a title.