Tuesday, August 31, 2010

What is Above Reproach?

1 Tim 3.2 An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money. 4He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity 5(but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?), 6and not a new convert, so that he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil. 7And he must have a good reputation with those outside the church, so that he will not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.

There is a demand in the scriptures for those in spiritual leadership that is easy to misunderstand. In 1 Tim 3.2 tells us that spiritual leaders are supposed to be above reproach. Some feel that this means that a pastor or elder should never be accused of some activity that is offensive. This certainly cannot be the intent of Paul when he wrote this. Jesus himself, as well as Paul the Apostle, were accused of various activity that was scandalous. Jesus hung out with "sinners and drunkards" and Paul often faced the demand to accommodate the Jewish believers who insisted that he honor the Old Covenant rituals such as circumcision. The scandal was pervasive through out the NT church. The term "above reproach" does not mean that Christian leadership cannot be accused of wrong doing, only that the accusation should not be founded. Otherwise, Jesus and Paul would not be eligible for leadership in the church! Spiritual leaders cannot minister in truth when they are bound to the judgments of others.

While it is clear that there is a concern for the reputation of the Gospel in view, it has little to do with accommodating one's lifestyle to the wishes of others. One would have to limit his lifestyle to the lowest common objection of the most ignorant and spiritually clueless individual. The reason we know that this demand is not about accommodation to others "sensitivities" is that this "above reproach" is defined in the descriptors that immediately follow. These characteristics of respectable spiritual leaders are the kind of things that all Christians should aspire to. A solid and faithful marriage,sobriety, wisdom, sufficient knowledge of the truth and ability to teach, not greedy, solid family leadership, etc. These moral examples and the testimony of the leader should not be the issues that scandals are derived from.

Often, those familiar with older versions of the scriptures will quote "abstain from the appearance of evil" as if it meant that the spiritual person should avoid anything that looks evil. Well, this is precisely NOT what is being said in the 1 Thess 5.22. It has nothing to do with appearance (as in the way things look) and everything to do with where evil (sinful behavior) appears. In fact, the newer translations have picked this meaning up.(NIV Avoid every kind of evil!)

This frees that christian leader to worry less about what others are thinking as they judge behavior and concentrate on having truth in their hearts and serving
the Lord with integrity. There is less of a temptation to be a "man-pleaser" and a freedom to truly be a "God-Pleaser"!