love and pastoral affairs

The New Testament epistle of 1st Timothy has a frequently neglected expectation of church leaders,
1 Timothy 3: 1-7 Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task. 2 Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4 He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect. 5 (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?) 6 He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. 7 He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap.
I said "frequently neglected" but it may only be to my limited perspective. What should the church do if a leader is not above reproach, disgrace? Elsewhere Peter's letter states, Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 1 Peter 4:8 Should disgraceful acts by a church leader be covered up? This seems to be the approach repeatedly across many church groups, whether it be Catholic priests, Anabaptist theologians, missionary boarding school staff, civil rights leaders who were also Baptist preachers, and a revivalist preacher to California hippies among many examples and those are just of the sexual nature. When Christian leaders flaunt their wealth with expensive self-serving things, they have disgraced themselves and none of their followers care. Well, they care if their leader is called out for being reproachful.

Jesus had little tolerance for religious leaders who honored their god with words but not actions. He called them actors, hypocrites in Greek, and whitewashed tombs, pretty on the outside and corrupt on the inside. If the "noble task" cannot be done with honesty and integrity by someone, and if God truly can sustain his church such that the gates of hell will not prevail against it, then why conceal what God is revealing? In each of the synoptic gospels Jesus tells his followers that what is hidden will be revealed. Light is a good thing when it uncovers evil. The scandals of the Catholic church, for example, show what happens when the first evil revelation is covered up. It only festers and spreads, making lives much worse when it is finally exposed.

It is loving for me to forgive a sin. But when I am aware of a church leader's hidden sin, which fails to meet up to it's noble task undertaken for the church, then my forgiveness is not enough. The leader needs to step aside and return to being a follower again. If the scandal comes to light after their death, telling the truth about their clay feet does not diminish what God is able to do with such weak instruments.

Later in the first letter to Timothy, Paul writes,
19 Do not entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two or three witnesses. 20 But those elders who are sinning you are to reprove before everyone, so that the others may take warning. 21 I charge you, in the sight of God and Christ Jesus and the elect angels, to keep these instructions without partiality, and to do nothing out of favoritism. 1 Timothy 5

A public reproof is an embodied sermon. And a favored teacher should not be given a pass, "favorited", when it comes to their stumbling. It keeps pedestals very low to the ground. Paul starts his letter with plenty of pedestal chopping.

15 Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. 16 But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. 17 Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen. 1 Timothy 1

The way of love is to keep the follower's focus on Jesus, and not a facade, a white washed tomb.


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