When Behavior Matters

Passages like today from 1 Timothy 3 leave me uncomfortable to write about. I know that behavior doesn’t matter in regard to salvation. We cannot come into a relationship with God via our own behavior. It doesn’t happen that way. But over and over again in the Bible we are told that behavior does matter. We are to live our lives in a Christ-like way. We are warned about anger and jealousy and envy…all which play out in behavior in some way or another. In this chapter Paul writes to Timothy about the behavior qualifications of an overseer or a bishop. As I understand the Bible, this is the same “office” as a pastor or shepherd of a church. Paul lists some pretty daunting qualifications: A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach; not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous; one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?); not a novice, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil. Moreover he must have a good testimony among those who are outside, lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.

As a pastor, I feel disqualified as I read this list. There are times when I see myself as outside of the bounds of this list, not all of the time but certainly at different times. Being more transparent, verses 4-5 contain words that trouble me as I consider my “fitness” for the job. We all have experiences and know people in ministry or spiritual leadership whose behavior is less than desirable. How do we handle this?  I’m not sure I have the right answer; but I know that part of that answer is not to dismiss the call to right behavior for spiritual leadership. I’m not sure when we disqualify someone from leadership…I’m not convinced that hard and fast rules are easy to apply nor that they should be applied. But what I do know is that behavior matters for spiritual leaders. Leaders have a special opportunity to influence others both positively and negatively. When spiritual leaders read this chapter, I pray we all take a few moments to ask God to search our hearts and help us to make the necessary changes; not so that we can maintain our salvation but that we would be better ambassadors and representatives of Christ in our world.


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