We Are All Brothers – part 7

“For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven”.

(NIV, Matthew 5:20)

After Jesus says this, he teaches us the new commands. He says don’t be angry, don’t call anyone a fool, if someone has anything against you (even if you don’t think it is your fault) go and reconcile with him..

don’t lust in your heart, don’t divorce, do not make promises, don’t resist evil people, turn the other cheek, go the extra mile, and love your enemies. Take a closer look at the following verse. You must love your enemies so that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.

“But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect”.

(NIV, Matthew 5:44-47)

Many of the problems in modern Christian leadership would be solved if the leaders and the followers just did these simple things. If you love everyone, including your enemies, several things happen; your personal rights disappear. Your pride, haughtiness, and your competition diminish. And if you look closely at these passages, you will not want to have authority over someone else. If you practice and teach these things, you will be considered great in the kingdom of heaven — in Jesus’s estimation (Matthew 5:19). Who is great in the kingdom of heaven? The one who practices and teaches that we must give to anyone who asks, forgive those we have not wronged, go the extra mile, love our enemies, become like a little child, and become the servants of everyone (Matthew 18:1-5; Matthew 22:34-38). There is no room to be served if one practices and teaches all these things.

“Everything they do is done for men to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them ‘Rabbi.’ But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have only one Master and you are all brothers” .

(NIV, Matthew 23:5-8)

A key phrase here is that we are all brothers. Brothers are all on the same level. He makes it clear that the world’s leaders do things to be seen by men. They do these things to be above the others. They take the most important places because they feel more important. They love to be greeted and looked up to by those below them; men calling them Rabbi or teacher. For we have only ONE Master and we are all brothers.

We have only one Master and we are all brothers

No one is to be called “leader”. We are all brothers! We are all on the same level. No one has power over another. No one is to serve those that are higher up. No homage, honor, or respect from a lower status is to be paid upward. Those who are being served, many times, are doing so because they feel they have the right to be served. They have a sense of entitlement. They feel that they are in a comparison competition with other leaders and therefore need to be seen being served in order to show the others that they have power over their followers. They need to be seen giving out orders and manipulating the masses. They need to be seen being greeted in public and seated in places of honor. They want to be seen being served by others so that they are considered higher in status. If you are rich, you have servants. If you are more educated, you have more status and authority to teach or to get a better job or position. If you have more power, influence and followers, you have more authority to lead and guide others according to the worldly authority structure.

If you have more money, position, prestige, seniority, intelligence, skill, training, or any of the things that raise you higher above others, it is credited to your worldly leadership status so that you are entitled to exercise authority over them because of your superiority. You deserve to be served. It means that you are higher up. You have followers meaning that you are something. If you are being served, it is likely that they are calling you using the terms “professor”, “pastor”, “doctor”, “pastor doctor”, “your holiness”, “most holy father”, or “your eminence”. If you are extremely high in the authority structure you might be called “most eminent cardinal”, “my lord cardinal”, “your excellency”, “monsignor”, “reverend”,  “prophet”, or “apostle”. (1 Corinthians 15:9) The list is long. You may not be being served as a personal waiter would serve a table, but your ego is being served every time someone refers to you with an elaborate title. Jesus tells us not to use elaborate titles at all (Matthew 23:8-12). If you think I am over exaggerating, take a look at the state of Christianity today. The Church is in an over-exaggerated state of disarray over men who feel entitled to their titles. And it is all happening because we will not consider one another only as brothers. It is happening because we simply will not obey the teaching of Christ. These verses go right over our heads as we read. We must begin to read with close attention to detail.

But Jesus tells us that we have only one master (some versions use Lord), and he is the master or Lord, and we are all brothers. We are all equal in status. He also tells us to not call anyone father. We all have one original father and he is the creator of us all. If my father were a prominent or wealthy politician or a billionaire, I might consider myself entitled to a status that other people do not have. Jesus does away with the temptation to use our family heritage or social status to elevate ourselves above others. Furthermore, we are not to be like the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who love high positions in order to be seen by others (Matthew 23:8-12). When men see you in a high position what do they do? They recognize your authority, they honor you, they admire you, they serve your ego and they call you by your title whenever they address you.

Have you ever had someone tell you to call you doctor so and so? Jesus told us to consider ourselves unworthy of titles and to consider ourselves all on the same level. Brothers are on the same level. If you are the important one, the big shot, the one in charge, if you are the all-wise one that has all the answers, then you are to be revered, honored, feared, sought after, and called by your title. The higher you go, the more followers you have and the result is a group to be ruled by fear and intimidation because of your power, position, prestige, and title.

I was once at a conference in a large church movement for several days. During the last conference, about fifty children sang, and as they were coming off the stage, they passed by the senior pastor and greeted him with reverent fear and excitement as though he were a god. They also kissed his hand. This was in an evangelical church of about 10,000 members. It was one of the most disturbing things I have ever witnessed in leadership. Albert Einstein said, “Three great forces rule the world: stupidity, fear, and greed.” If we follow anyone other than Christ are we not ignorant? Is it not out of fear, stupidity, or greed? The greed part is usually on the great leader or his sub-leaders that get the benefit of his finances. Here is where I tend to feel as though I will apologize for being so direct. But I will not apologize for Christ or what he teaches us, especially in a world that great vast regions have yet to here his name.

It is actually good news is that Jesus tells us that we are all brothers. Every one of us — not just some of us — are brothers and are on the same level. Being brothers puts everything into perspective. It means that we are on the same level meaning that no one is more important than the other. No one is leading among the brothers and no one but Jesus is the leader. There is only one Master —with a capital M— and he is THE MESSIAH. All the rest of us, and that means everyone, are just brothers including the apostle Peter. Peter was not given any special place of leadership by Christ. This is a misinterpretation of scripture.

The more I read the New Testament the more I believe that Jesus spent more time with Peter because he needed it. According to his teaching, Christ places all people, apostles, disciples, prophets, etc. on the same level; brothers. Jesus says to Peter that on this rock he will build his Church (Matthew 16:13-20). But Jesus did not use the word “petros” which is what he named Peter and means “rock-man.” Jesus used the word “petra” when referring to his church. Petra in Greek is a feminine form literally meaning rock. So what Jesus was saying is that he will build his Church (his body) upon all those who have the same revelation Peter did, that he is The Messiah. He did not say that he would build his Church (the body) upon the leadership of Peter. Jesus was not setting Peter up to take his place after he ascended. The believers began to elevate the apostles and other leaders above themselves. It is what the fallen human nature does in order to have someone human to follow. They wanted someone who they could see and touch after Jesus had gone. Here is another point. When we choose human beings to lead us, we can manipulate and control them with what human beings are tempted with; praise, power, position, and money. We also do not have to be as accountable to them because they are mere men. If we disobey Jesus, we have disobeyed the Lord God Almighty. If we disobey Peter, well, we have only disobeyed a man.

We have an enemy that will always elevate men above Christ. This enemy will always try to lower Christ to our level or elevate us to Christ’s level. Satan will go right for the weaknesses in men’s fallen nature. He will try to undermine Christ’s authority and diminish his deity. Deeper inside our fallen nature is the desire to be elevated to the level of God. It goes back to the Garden of Eden when man and woman listened to the serpent, “Who is God to tell you what to do?” (Genesis 3:1-4) Satan tells the woman in verse four that she will become like God. This idea comes from Satan and is the oldest and first temptation to humankind. We must stop allowing these attitudes to control us. We must become the lowly servants of everyone doing the work at hand, regardless of how humiliating it is. We must learn that we are all brothers who are equal and on the same level. We must die to ourselves and become great in the kingdom by going low on the spiritual authority structure of Christ. It is the only way we will extend his kingdom to the ends of the earth.

If you find that you are being served in any way, you need to get down from your high position. Kill this attitude by taking action. The action is to serve others in lowly tasks. The action is to submit to one another and follow instructions explicitly. Dying is an action and when you serve others you are killing that haughty attitude little by little. You die every day a little more. Positionally, in Christ, you are already completely dead to selfishness, self-love, and self-adoration. You are positionally dead. But, on this earth, you will have to take deny ourselves (Luke 9:23) and follow him to your death by the action of serving. This is the working out your practical sanctification here on the earth (Philippians 2:12). You may act humble, but you aren’t truly humble when you are being served. If you are being served, you believe that you deserve to be served. So even if you think you are humble, your actions show otherwise.

My mother-in-law came to live with us for a time. She would help out with washing the dishes. One afternoon after lunch I though to myself, I will leave my dishes on the table and let her pick them up. The Holy Spirit told me take your own dishes and clean the table. I would insist to do the dishes and she would not let me wanting to help out. If other people insist on serving in one area, you do all the rest. When you see dishes in the sink do them. Dont leave them there for someone else to do. These little actions will help you keep your feet on the ground and your head from growing too big to go into the nations. Many missionaries wonder why they just can’t get to the mission field. God is preventing them from going because there attitude will contaminate the unreached peoples.

You need to pray to God to help you start to lead differently by serving. When in doubt, just serve. Just do what people tell you to do. Just do it how they tell you to do it. Just obey others. It won’t hurt anything but your pride. If you continue to hurt your pride, it will eventually die. You will make people very angry with you and they will probably think incorrectly about you. But don’t pay any attention to them. You are all brothers. You are all brothers and there is but one Master. If you are the head of an organization or ministry, you will have to be the one that takes the initiative to begin to restructure your leadership. It will have to start with you.

I have worldly leadership titles and I have never felt comfortable with them. I have had to learn to operate as though they did not exist and with humility. The hard part has been losing the attitude that came with those titles. Secretly I liked them. Secretly I admired my positions and high leadership roles. It took me a few years of serving and being everyone’s slave to die the titles and live as though they did not exist. If you are given a high position, you must live as though you did not have it. You must use it to serve in the ordinary tasks until the secret hidden sense of authority is killed by the action of waiting on tables. Being the head of something will have to disappear completely in you. This may mean that you have to disconnect from the worldly Christian leadership system. In our present organization, we do not have these titles. One thing I did to help myself is I worked myself out of my job. Once I was the head, I did away with my titles. A lot of people were bewildered by that. You are really going to have to take this seriously if you truly want to be used in God’s kingdom.

“But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other”.

(NIV, 1 Corinthians 12:24-25)

If I am combined with the other members of the body in the circle of Christ’s leadership, I will be, just another brother. If I am equally concerned about those who are in the same circle as I am, I will serve them. If I am doing the planning and issuing the objectives so that others follow and do the physical work, I am being served. We all are brothers here, no one is higher than anyone else. Everyone does dishes. Everyone takes out the trash. Everyone folds chairs. Everyone serves tables. No one is elevated closer to Christ because of importance, invented authority, experience, or seniority. The parts of the body that have less honor are given more. Note that Paul uses the word honor and not authority. How is this honor applied to the parts that lack it? By God himself. He does two things, he combines members and gives more honor to those who lack it. God does this, not us. It is automatically done by God for all members. We don’t have anything to do with it. However, we are all necessary parts of the body, we all have the same level of honor. It matters not how many years of tenure you have or how many letters are after your name. We all have the same level of honor, we are all necessary members.

We are all placed on the same level by God who ranks us equally, to avoid division among us

A few years ago, I was invited to a fairly large congregation for a few days to help on a project. One night we were in the youth prayer meeting and the senior pastor showed up. We were introduced and he seemed to be a nice guy. The prayer meeting went well and afterward, we talked with him for about half an hour. We were about to leave when one of the young people was saying goodbye and referred to him as “Pastor-Doctor”. I was taken back at first and then thought that I must have misheard the young person. The next day I was in the church offices and again I heard another person refer to him as “Pastor-Doctor”. I did some inquiry because I couldn’t believe what I had heard. I found out that he recently received his Ph.D. in theology and that is what earned him the new title “Pastor-Doctor.” The reason Jesus prohibits these titles is because one inch will eventually lead to a mile. At first, we don’t think much about the title, and little by little we grow accustomed to them. Over time we secretly begin to like them. Eventually, we don’t feel uncomfortable when people are all around us taking care of our business, or our personal needs. We don’t feel bad that there is a waiting list to get an appointment to see us. We don’t feel strange that we have to escape the crowds that are waiting to talk to us because we have to go about the pastor-doctor business. Titles are given or earned so that people serve you, not so that you will serve the followers of your title. The fact is, Jesus prohibits worldly titles. You are not to be called by any title, for your sake, and for your followers’ sakes (Matthew 23:6-13; 1 Corinthians 15:9). Over and over Jesus teaches us to consider ourselves as servants. When you stop serving as much, others are going to have to take up the slack and serve in your place. Are you being served? These little things are the things that we have to die to before they spiral out of control. Many godly men and women have gotten only one inch off track later to find themselves on a completely different road.

For the most part, Jesus appointed uneducated men to be his apostles. They were to be his message bearers and it is clear that education was not a requirement. The Pharisees and the teachers of the law were well aware that Jesus’s disciples were unschooled, ordinary men (Acts 4:13). There are two things the author of Acts tells us, unschooled and ordinary. You will need to become ordinary somehow. If you are schooled you will have to live as though you were not. Being a leader in Jesus’ estimation will require that you lower yourself to the point that you are nothing special and undeserving of any special treatment. Not one ounce of glory is to be taken away from the most high. He is THE MOST HIGH and you don’t come close to him. Jesus is a thousand-story building and we are all on the first floor. We cannot attain anywhere near his stature. We cannot be elevated enough to come even close to him. All glory has to go to him. No glory is reserved for any of those that are lower. And all those who are lower are leveled by him and are equaled by him. He forces it to be this way. It is a conscious spiritual activity on God’s part that he gives greater honor to those who lack it in order to equal the combined body. We are his creation equally. He breathed us into existence and we are held together by his will (Colossians 1:15-23). We are parts of his spiritual body combined and held together by himself (Ephesians 4:15, 16; Colossians 2:19, 20). If you begin to understand how high Christ is and how much power and authority God the Father has, it will give you a very different view of yourself. You will not think more highly of yourself than you ought (Romans 12:3). You will maintain a prostrate position.

“Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord”.

(NIV, Romans 12:10, 11)

Honor one another above yourself. Please read on.