Gospel Message & Recording
The “teacher” has been the person of high esteem and honor in most societies throughout history. This word has been attributed to those who teach all age groups in various subjects and disciplines. Similarly, the word “father” is used to describe the progeny of Adam’s race. It denotes the person within the family unit that is the male. The father has the responsibility (like the mother) to raise his children in a nurturing environment with love and discipline. The word father can be extended to the “grand”-father and other men that function within that modality. Such is the case with priest in the Orthodox (and Catholic) tradition. The office of priest is titled “father” (Fr.). With the use of “teacher” and “father” being so common at present and past, why then did Jesus teach others that no one should call anyone teacher (Matt. 23:8) or father, (Matt. 23:9). The answer is simple when the gospel is read in the right context. Jesus wasn’t saying that we couldn’t use the term teacher and father; but rather he is using a form of rhetoric, which is call “exaggeration,” in order to make a point. He does this in other areas of the gospel. He tells his hearers if your right arm sins, cut it off. (Matt. 5:30) Then again if your eye sins, pluck it out. (Matt 18:9) Did Jesus really want you to cut off your arm and pluck out your eye? Absolutely not! In fact, if He did, then why were his disciples still walking around unmaimed? Meaning, after Christ preached this message, wouldn’t the disciples somehow sinned via eye or hand. Certainly Peter did when he attempted to defend Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane and cut of the soldier’s ear. Shouldn’t Peter have cut off his arm if the words of Christ in this regard were literal? So, then, we can conclude that Jesus was using a form of exaggeration to make a point. The point is: 1) ultimately God is your father, and Jesus is your teacher; 2) don’t rely on the “worldly” teacher to guide you; 3) seek God first when you need help or guidance
In the church, the priest/father has always been a person that people went to for guidance and help. The priest was the teacher! At least this was the case in the past. Presently, this practice is slowly dissolving. More and more, Christians are seeking help first and foremost from secular counselors and therapists. There is a place in the Church for such avenues of help but the first resource is the priest who has been divinely appointed to heal and console the broken hearted. In the past, the “measuring-stick” for the priest was his life—prayer, fasting, and miracles. Nowadays, the “measuring-stick” is his number of degrees, his ability to manage ministries and organize big conferences. The priest has gone from the “great” shepherd to the “great” administrator. Therefore, the Church has lost its ability to teach through the priest. Hence, one of the primary reasons why the faithful seek advice in other places. Nevertheless, when priest is consulted regarding various problems, he provides advice from a Christian perspective. He is able to diagnose and treat the issues the believer is facing because he knows spiritual truths of Christ and the Church. When marital problem arise, first seek the guidance of an Orthodox priest, likewise, with other issues, such as addiction. If, for some reason, he cannot “completely” help, then referrals are made to see a “trusted” counselor or therapist.
Many of the emotional struggles that we face as adults derive from our upbringing, particularly our relationship with our father. Our relationship with our father is so critical that it directly affects our stability as an adult. Too often, our relationship with our father is not prefect, and unfortunately in some cases, it’s problematic or non-existent. Sometimes we are able to change the course of this relationship by the sheer grace of God and exercise forgiveness and love (even if it hurts) bring about reconciliation. However, in some instances, things are not repairable, and the son or daughter has to simply move on by forgiving regardless of the father’s actions. In the case where a father is non-existent, that is, absent from the child’s life, the yearning for the father is tremendous. Whatever the case maybe, Jesus teaches us that God is ultimately our Father. No matter what the earthly circumstance, our heavenly Father will never forsake or abandon us. This is what Jesus meant by saying, ‘Do not call anyone your father, except your God in heaven.’ He was not implying that you should abstain from calling anyone father.
In conclusion, calling someone father or teacher is not the point of contention. Rather, Jesus is stressing that God is ultimately our Father, and He, the Christ, is ultimately our teacher. We should be careful not to rely on people too much, even religious leaders. Instead, we should make a good attempt to establish a strong relationship with God and reply on him in all circumstances.
- When you find yourself going through personal, marital or family struggles, whom do you turn to? Are you relying on secular counselor to help you? Do you seek counsel from an Orthodox Priest?
- Presently, the teachers that are prominent are late night comedians, rappers, and Hollywood stars. Should we even consider what they say? Do you feel our society is given them too much prominence? Who are your true teachers? Where do you receive your teaching?
- Do you feel during certain struggles in life that you rely on God? Do you go to Christ in prayer with your struggles and trials? Or, is He the last resort?