“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 Word as taught faithfully, that he might be able to exhort people in doctrine that is sound and reprove those who deny it.”
The Greek word πλήκτης (plaktas) is defined by Danker’s Greek-English Lexicon as “pugnacious.” That is not a word that we commonly see in modern English, though it has an interesting background. Today, “pugnacious” is often used to refer to someone who is spunky, determined, and unwilling to be deterred from his or her goals…and in that sense, it is a wonderful word and is often meant as a compliment. The Latin root of the word refers to using one’s fists to accomplish things…we might speak of someone who bullies others to get the job done. This is the sense in which πλήκτης (plaktas) is being used in the text before us…so, in that sense, I have translated it, “not violent,” though you could, more idiomatically, render it, “not a bully.”
Πλήκτης (plaktas) shares a root with πλήσσω (plasso), which means “to strike with force.” And thus, Paul’s instruction is that people with a reputation for getting things done through force (bullys) are not eligible for the office of Elders. How very “un-American” indeed! We celebrate the person (typically in the business world) who accomplishes what he accomplishes no matter what the cost and often by bullying the employees to work harder or the customers to up their orders.
Yet, that is not the reputation that one who leads the church of Jesus Christ ought to have. Indeed, that is one more reason that churches should not think of themselves along the lines of business models. We are to lead by setting an example of service and lovingkindness. That does not mean that we don’t strive hard toward the end of what is right, but it means that we have learned to trust the timing of God. Abraham and Sarah did not trust God’s timing and as a result, Abraham fathered Ishmael…a mistake for which we are still paying the price as we face the radical Islamist world in the middle-east…a people-group that descended from that union of Abraham and Hagar…a people who are known for having their hand against everyone and everyone’s hand against them (Genesis 16:12).
Thus, the leadership in the church should be known as gentlemen in the best sense of the word, and honor Christ in their actions…not only as to the ends for which they strive, but the means by which they reach those ends. Bullying to get one’s way is never acceptable in the church of Jesus Christ.