“Not My Boss”

As you know, last week the recently appointed leader of the Roman Catholic church, Francis, visited these United States. Receiving a rock star’s welcome and media coverage fit for a king, many Americans dropped everything to pay homage and heed to this religious leader. The fact that he spent quality time with our president and addressed both our congress and the United Nations shows how much political clout he wields on the world stage. The degree of adulation and attention that was given to this mere mortal does not surprise me, but it does concern me.
During the days of his visit, while I was at the gym, one of the young men who knows I’m a minister said to me: “So, I bet you’re excited – your big boss is visiting this week!” I answered him, “He’s not my boss.” Then I had a chance to explain what I meant by that, and my concerns about exalting religious leaders in general. I shared with him that “Jesus is the head over all things to the church, which is his body – preeminent (first) in all things” (Eph 1.22-23; Col 1.18) and that He is our “one Lord” (Eph 4.5) – our “big boss,” if you will. I also shared 1 Tim 2.5 – that “there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” I explained that the term Pontiff comes from the Latin root for “bridge”, meaning that the pope is seen as a “bridge” or “mediator” between heaven and earth! I finished with John 14.6 – that Jesus is “the way” – He’s the only Bridge between heaven and earth!
By the way, do you know what the term “pope” means? It comes from the Latin, papas, which means “father.” I do not address any person by that term in a religious way – neither should you. In Mat 23.8-12, Jesus declares Heaven’s Will on this matter: “But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers. And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. Neither be called masters, for you have one Master, the Christ. The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” The church of our Lord is not a hierarchy where the ambitious climb the ladder to the top. Rather Jesus teaches that true greatness is in found in humble servitude and sacrifice (Mat 20.25-28).
On occasions when I’ve met “priests” who introduced themselves as “Father _________,” I responded with something like this: “Nice to meet you, Mr. _____ or Dr. _____.” That can raise some eyebrows and some questions to be sure! I have had a few situations when I was asked why I wouldn’t show respect to a “fellow clergyman” by using his proper title. My reply is well-rehearsed: “My Lord has given me a direct command on this matter. I mean no disrespect, but I cannot honor a man in a way that will dishonor my Heavenly Father and disregard the clear teaching of His Son.”
Why am I saying all this? First, let’s be in prayer that people will stop exalting people and start exalting Christ – let’s show them and teach them Jesus’ better way! Second, let’s praise God that no man or institution stands between us and God. Let’s praise Him that we have direct access through Jesus Christ! Let’s praise Him that we are all priests, saints, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters of God!
No, Francis is “not my boss” and he’s not your boss either!
Rich Howell

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