Tractable or Intractable?

“If there is one who is irreproachable, a husband of one wife, whose children have faith, not open to the accusation of reckless living or undisciplined behavior, for it is required that the overseer is irreproachable as God’s steward, not intractable, not short-tempered, not violent, not greedy, but hospitable, a lover of good, prudent, upright, pious, disciplined, being devoted to the faithful Word as taught, that he might be able to exhort people in doctrine that is sound and reprove those who deny it.”

(Titus 1:6-9)

Elders are not to be intractable. Now, there’s a word that you don’t often see anymore. In English, “intractable” refers to someone with whom it is difficult to get along. The Greek word behind this term is αυθάδης (authades). It refers to someone who is headstrong, arrogant, and stubborn — someone who is intractable. In other words, someone who is a donkey of a man (at least in personality) is not qualified to serve as an Elder.

We all know people of whom this language speaks and we probably know of some who are part of church leadership and who domineer over those in their charge (see Peter’s language on this notion — 1 Peter 5:3). The bottom line is that if you are going to serve faithfully over God’s flock, one must be able to work with all sorts of folks, pointing them to Christ and modeling Christ to them.

This does not mean that the Elder is always to be “tractable.” Indeed, the Scriptures call all Christians to be intractable toward sin, toward false teachings, and toward those who would raise up ideas that go against the knowledge of God. And, not only are leaders in the church no exception to this rule, they are especially called upon to stubbornly and boldly defend the truth.

The sad thing is that the church and its leaders often gets this backwards. We find Christians being intractable toward one another and being tractable toward the sinful world around us. Yet, does not James remind us that friendship with the world is enmity with God (James 4:4)? Should we not be under the persecution of the world (John 15:18-21)? Are we not counted as blessed when the world hates and reviles us for the name of Jesus (Matthew 5:10-12)? So, why is it that so many church leaders in America have become tractable to the sinful agendas of the culture? And why is it that so many church leaders have become intractable toward those they are called to serve? The solution? Repentance.

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