Respect is the Issue
Question: One thing that I noticed while visiting was that the children addressed the adults by their first name. It may be a small thing, but we have always taught our children to use the typical Mr. or Mrs. Am I wrong? Is this being legalistic?
Perhaps not too legalistic, but it will never happen here, other than with visitors. We have found it impossible to live in a climate of love and trust, where a child’s best friends at age seven may very well be 3-8 times older than he is...and also maintain a caste system with titles. At what point are they old enough to call their best friends by their names, instead of by a title? It would be far too confusing. It makes sense in an institutional environment, or in a disconnected environment, as well as in a work place with “superiors” being referred to this way. “Excuse me, Sir, but could I ask you a question?” I UNDERSTAND the appropriateness of “titles” in a world that is distant and unfamiliar and unrelated on a daily basis. However, in a true Church world of “a hundred mothers, brothers, sisters” it is very different. “Sir” and “Mr. So-and-so” DO MAKE SENSE when speaking to “strangers”—but not to close family. That won’t work in a family, you know. Is that how your children ask you a question? Or your wife? Of course not. RESPECT is the issue, and is essential. But not titles.
Our children do use these “respect” titles with pagans, and strangers, and authority figures in the world system. It is appropriate in such cases. I just spoke to an elderly woman in a grocery store moments ago, calling her “Ma’am.” This is appropriate, of course, with those we do not know well, and deserve this “skin deep” sign of respect.
And yet it is very different in true, living, FAMILY.
In strong, intimate, close FAMILY (as the Church is Called and Designed and Commanded to be) there is a strong tendency towards familiar “nicknames” rather than formal titles and “the eighteen inch rule.” Even in the world, when there is affection and intimacy and respect based on REALITY, not form, we do not find formality. “HI, Grammy!” and other familiar nicknames are FAR more common to a six-year-old than “Hello, Grandmother.” The closer we truly are, the LESS appropriate the “titles” could ever be.
So, it’s not a matter of the inappropriateness of “titles” such as “mr.” and “sir” and “ma’am.” THAT’S not the issue. It is not innately “wrong” at all! But rather the issue is the sad distance between people that are Biblically SUPPOSED to be “mothers, brothers, and sisters” on a “DAILY” basis (1Cor.12, Acts 2:42-47, Eph.2:20-22, etc etc), instead of attendance-based “cells” and “churches” and “services” and “house churches.” Thus, the unBiblical “generation gaps” and “religious gaps” and “social strata” and “biological family” gaps naturally form, which precipitate the need for artificial signs of respect, and titles. We should “conquer” the REAL problem of formality and lack of intimate Truth daily between Disciples, and dependence on “form” and “attendance” as a substitute for Biblical Church and Christianity. It’s SURELY not about whether we use the word “Mr.” or “Sir” at all! Even to a parent, if responding to a directive or assignment or correction of some sort from that parent or adult, “Yes, Ma’am!” from ANY child might be just perfect, too. : )
Have you ever noticed that Jesus FORBID religious titles (Mat.23) when He revealed that Yahweh was a FATHER, and that the Chosen were to be true FAMILY, based on their SECOND Birth?
And here is an additional thought for you:
Do the young ones quickly get out of the comfortable chairs in the living room when an older person enters the room? Do the young ones speak with respect, and ask questions humbly, never interrupting in some bold “I know things too” sort of way? Are they quiet and kind and sensitive when older ones are around, as well as the rest of the time?! : ) With visitors, I will often ask the young ones to refer to the guests as “Mr.” or “Mrs.” But that usually doesn’t last long because the guest won’t want it to be that way once they taste the Life and see that the respect is there, with or without a title. And needless to say, in most cases in the world, using titles does nothing whatsoever for the hearts of those using the title, or receiving the title. It’s easier to say something than it is to be someone which is the part we prefer to work on, of course. Love,