Lawson writes . . . sharing thoughts and memories

November 30, 2010

Man of the Cloth

Filed under: Uncategorized — lawsonjolly @ 5:00 am

The other day a man called me over to his car.  He said, “Being a Man of the Cloth, let me ask you . . . .”

He then began to ask me some questions.  He had used that term with me before.  I thought about such a title.  What does it really mean?  I know that we hear the title on occasion for a minister, but why such a term to describe a minister?

There are no good, specific answers, but I did get some clues to its history and origin.  It is used to describe a member of the clergy — a spiritual leader in a Christian church.  It is more applied to priests and monks in the Catholic church than to others, but yet it is used to describe all ministers.

In the 17th Century it seems that men of royalty had provided certain clothes to be worn by their servants.  These clothes distinguished the servants as their role and to whom they belonged.  The families of royalty seemingly competed as to who had the best dressed servants.

By the end of the century, this fashion faded, but the term “men of the cloth” was restricted to those in the clerical profession — ministry.  It became obvious that the dress of ministers, especially in the Catholic faith,  distinguished and identified their profession.

Most of us remember the days when Catholic priest wore their garb always.  Of course, now they are less formal at times.  We also remember when you could identify most other clergy — black suit, black tie, black shoes, etc.  Some are probably remarking, even before I make the statement, “Times have sure changed!”

I think it is a good term, “Man of the Cloth,”  when  you put it in the historical context of identifying a profession — and the relation to the original term being used to describe the profession as a servant.  I truly believe the term does speak of an identification: minister-servant.  Don’t we think of a minister as a servant?

I know that in today’s world there are many ministers who see the role differently.   They see themselves more in the role of shepherd-leader.  Not in refuting that, I would rather describe the role as a servant of God and a servant of people.  As ministers, we can be a servant to people and still function in the role of shepherd.

I would never attempt to engage in a word study in Greek, but I can tell you there are five words in the New Testament that are translated minister or ministry as a reference to servanthood.  Jesus himself came  not to be served, but to serve/minister.  Let those of us called to ministry pattern our ministry after Him.  He is our model.

“Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave to all.  For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve . . . .” (Mark 10:43-45)  “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: who  being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant . . . .”  (Philippians 2:5-7)

Lawson

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