Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Qualifications of an Overseer

1 Tim. 3:1-7 (ESV)
The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. [2] Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, [3] not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. [4] He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, [5] for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God's church? [6] He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. [7] Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.
When I am going to confession, or want a good dose of law and repentance, I confess, I read this. I am not sure if there is anything in the Bible that cuts me to the quick faster or harder. Just glancing at this makes me feel a bit guilty. Oh a few of these things I tend to think I do well, but I doubt very much I am able to remain above reproach. I tend to be sober minded. Well I like to think I am. Self controlled in some things, but not all. Respectable? I am respected by many inside and out, but not by all. Hospitable, well I like to practice hospitality, love entertaining. I think I do a decent job teaching. I don’t classify myself as a drunkard, but I have been drunk a few times. I don’t think of myself as violent, as I exercise self control. I can count on one hand the fights I have been in since the sixth grade, and that is saying something considering the school I went too, and 4 years enlisted in active duty. However, I’m not sure I am the gentlest man around. Not quarrelsome? I think I need work there. I love a debate. Not a lover of money, would that I could master that one. To be fare though it isn’t the money I love as much as the Scotch, books, house, art, guns, cigars and travel it can buy. Managing my own household well? Well my current wife and I get along pretty well. John has got to be the best little boy I could have asked for, especially considering he was born in my image. (So I’m waiting for some of the undesirable aspects of my image to reveal themselves in him. He has picked up my sense of humor, not sure that is good for a 7 year old, but it will keep him in good stead as he gets older.) Point is though I’m not sure that has anything to do with me. I’ve just been blessed with a very good little boy that likes to hike and fish. I’ll skip some these others, to the last one. Respected by outsiders. It’s harder for me to put a finger on this. I suppose some outsiders respect me. Not sure how many even know me. But God keep me from falling into disgrace!
The thing here is not to compare yourself to others with these things but to look at who you really are, come to a sober assessment. You can always cast your neighbor into a bad light, and make yourself shine in comparison. Well let’s just say you can always find someone to do that with. But a sober assessment shows that you fall short.
I have saved the first for last, because it has been way too abused especially in the LCMS. That is the husband of one wife bit. I just want to say here that it doesn’t say that. It can be translated that way, and properly so. But it doesn’t actually say that. It says “man of one woman.” And this has very little to do with divorce and remarriage. This is especially true in the modern context where the woman is likely the instigator of the divorce. (Statistics show that women file for divorce more often than men today.) That interpretation may have carried some weight when it was the man’s prerogative to divorce as was custom amongst Jews of the first century. Women didn’t often file for divorce because they lost everything in divorce. This would prohibit a polygamist from being a pastor or a bishop. (The terms are interchangeable here.) It does not prohibit polygamy. (The Old Testament expressly permitted polygamy, but not for priests. No where do you find the bible condemning polygamy either. The New Testament nowhere backs out of the permissions given in the Old Testament. The best you could say is the Bible holds one man and one woman to be the ideal, as expressed in the prohibition of priests to have more than one wife.) This text is dealing with womanizers. And that is the irony of history. A repentant womanizer in the history of the LCMS had an easier time holding his office, than a man divorced when he had no control over the divorce, whether or not it was his fault. Believe me as a divorced man I have agonized over this one.
I especially hate this serial polygamist bit that gets bantered about. For one, divorce in scripture is a much more serious issue than polygamy. God hates divorce. He allows it in some cases. It should be noted that in those cases there is an innocent party, and they are free to be remarried. That is the point of divorce. I am the husband of one wife, not two. And as much as my lustful heart would like me to be a womanizer, I am not one. We need to start taking scripture a bit more seriously in translation and application. Thankfully that has started, otherwise I wouldn’t be here. I used to be on the other side of this fence. We can hate divorce, but let’s not beat those who are down.

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