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In the Name of the Father


The term "plain speech" actually started with a refusal by Quakers to use one form of address for social "superiors" and another for people of the lower classes. The common folk were, in the Seventeenth Century, addressed as "thee" rather than "you", and so Quakers insisted on addressing everyone in the same way. This landed many of them in jail. We understand that this action by the early Quakers was related to instructions from Jesus for his followers not to use titles as ways of distinguishing some people above others. We Jesus Christians have applied this to a number of different titles today.

"Be not called Rabbi (which means master, sir, or teacher), for one is your Master, even Christ, and you are all brothers and sisters. And call no person your father upon earth." (Matthew 23:9)

We have often run into opposition when refusing to use some of the titles that Jesus forbids his followers to use. Some priests and doctors don't take kindly to being addressed by their first names. And imagine a soldier or prisoner who refuses to refer to 'superiors' as sir. Or a secretary who refuses to use sir or Mister when addressing people in letters.

"It's only a term of respect," they all argue. But when the 'superiors' insist that they be given such respect, can it really be called respect? People may be acting more out of fear than they realise.

And it may be this fear that Jesus is really asking us to confront. Certainly we must ask ourselves why Jesus felt so strongly about it that he commanded his disciples not to use such terms.

Strangely, the fiercest opposition to us obeying Jesus on this issue has not been from businessmen and civil authorities, but rather from our own parents. (Note: We assume "father" includes "mother" in the same way that "brethren" included sisters in King James English.)

We teach our own children to call their parents Mum and Dad while they are young, because we believe that they are still "under the law" until they become adults. It is important for them to know that these two people have a special commitment to caring for them; and it is from this care that they learn to appreciate what the title means when we apply it to our true Father in heaven.

But it should be the goal of every parent to lead their children to the point where they become mature, independent adults with a faith of their own. Each time one of my children has announced that they have accepted God as their true Father now, and my wife and myself as spiritual brother and sister, I have felt great satisfaction as a parent.

But this has not been the response from most parents outside our community. Although I am in my 50's, my own mother (a professing Christian) still takes offence that I take Matthew 23:9 literally, and show more loyalty to Christ than to her. And she is not alone. Most of our parents want to maintain a special claim of ownership over us which excludes us from being able to know God except through them.

We have considered the possibility that natural parents were not intended in the command; but then Jesus said the rule extended to "every person on earth". That is pretty much all-inclusive

The reaction we have received from our natural parents suggests that Jesus was touching on a sensitive spiritual nerve. If it didn't matter to our parents, it probably wouldn't matter to God. But he was addressing a common problem in parent-child relationships.

To compensate for hurt feelings, we try to show greater respect for our parents in areas where Jesus has not placed restrictions. But this has not satisfied many of them. They would rather have a show of respect (i.e. through titles) than genuine respect. And they accuse us of not loving them because of our determination to follow Jesus.

Which may explain another very shocking command of Jesus:

If anyone comes to me and does not hate their mother and father for me, they cannot be my disciples. (Luke 14:26)

We've never felt this means kicking their heads in. It just means putting God first, even if they accuse us of hating them when we do. And they do just that when we stop calling them Mum and Dad in the name of our heavenly Father.

(See also Forsaking Your Parents.)

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