“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.”
An Elder in Christ’s church must be ἐγκρατής (egkrates) — he must be self-disciplined and able to keep his emotions, passions, and desires under control. As God is not a God of confusion, but is a God of peace, so too, those who lead the church should reflect such a spiritual temperament. All in Christ’s house must be done decently and in order. One who has a short temper, one whose passions rule his actions, one who impetuously pursues the fads of the age is not capable of faithfully leading Christ’s church. Jesus stated that he only did that which the Father instructed him to do…and all that the Father does is in accordance with his divine decree, thus too, the Elder must only do that which the Father and Christ have instructed him to do. How do we know this? In the revealed Scriptures, our only rule for faith and practice.
When I began teaching, I was given one of the most round-a-bout compliments that I have ever received. Some of my students had spoken to the girls counselor at the school where I taught, saying that they just couldn’t figure me out. They said that even when they could tell that I was really upset with them over something, I still acted kindly towards them. They just didn’t understand how that could be…I got mad, but that didn’t change my behavior toward them. That is the heart of what Paul is demanding in church leaders. We will get mad, but we must yet act with love and grace toward those who have made us mad. Further, we must never discipline out of anger, but instead must do so out of love and a care for the souls of those who are receiving discipline.
Too often the character of church leadership is all too human. But it must not be. We, as leaders in the church, must act with the integrity and grace that we see modeled by Christ. Certainly, Jesus got mad, but he got mad without sinning. Certainly Jesus cursed the enemies of God, but he did so not because he was mastered by his emotions; he did so because he was speaking the Truth into a world that did not wish to hear it. Likewise, Elders must seek to model Christ, keeping their passions in check, and serving Christ to the glory of God on high.