Last Sunday, our pastor taught on 1 Timothy 3:1-16, which covers the requirements for being overseers (or “bishops”) and deacons in the church – leaders, basically, with different roles.
The term translated as “bishop” or “overseer” is Επισκοπῶν (“episkopon”), which is a supervisor. The role being described here has two other terms associated with it: πρεσβυτερίου (“presbuteriou”) in 1Tim 4:14, or “elder,” and ποιμένας (“poimenas,” “pastors”) in Ephesians 4:11 and others.
The description of the requirements for being an overseer really affected me, and it highlighted a conflict I don’t yet know how to resolve.
The requirements for an overseer can be seen in terms of external and internal loci, meaning that their focus (or “place,” which is what locus means) is either internal or external.
An overseer must be:
- above reproach (external locus)
- the husband of one wife (internal locus)
- sober-minded (internal locus)
- self-controlled (internal)
- respectable (external)
- hospitable (internal)
- able to teach (internal)
- not a drunkard (internal)
- not violent but gentle (internal)
- not quarrelsome (internal)
- not a lover of money (internal)
- must manage his own household well (internal)
- must not be a recent convert (internal)
- must be well thought of by outsiders (external)
A “locus” in this case refers to who controls the validity of an attribute. You control your ability to cleave to one mate; therefore, “the husband of one wife” is an internal locus. Likewise, you control your own self-control; internal locus.
Some attributes are controlled by others, though.
Others can quarrel with you, but you have the ability to respond with kindness and not argue back in passion; therefore, “not quarrelsome” is an internal locus of control.
That said, “well thought of by outsiders…” — for better or for worse, that’s something the outsiders control, not you.
You can act in a way such that outsiders should think well of you, but that doesn’t mean they will think well of you. What’s more, the Bible even suggests that we’ll be hated for His sake, which makes fulfillment of this requirement even more difficult.
Our pastor did walk through each of these in order, and I’m certainly not qualified to be an overseer even according to those factors for which I am entirely responsible, even through Christ’s help.
Yet the requirements that stood out to me, the ones that bother me the most, are the ones with external control.
Two circumstances play out here, applying to two different people (one of whom was me.)
As an example, consider: recently I chose to leave an IRC channel entirely. I’ve been struggling with some things lately, a matter of circumstance. The circumstances themselves aren’t very important, of course, but I mentioned my struggles in this IRC channel.
The response I received was enlightening, but not helpful. I was castigated for caring about these circumstances.
The interesting thing here is not that what the person castigating me was telling me was wrong. They were right, realistically; the things I’m enduring are frustrating, but in the end they’re a testament to the provision of God that these things are things I can easily handle and correct.
The issue I had was the delivery; it was offered in such a way that it was an insult to my character and witness, even though the reason I was saying it in the first place was because I was hurting in a mild way and needed support.
The response I received indicated that I’d failed the requirements for an overseer, as per 1Tim 3:7, which states that an overseer must be well thought of by others.
Another example, hopefully obscured sufficiently: someone was describing some difficult circumstances, saying that they were hurting. The response this person received was similar: a biting attack rather than a recognition of pain.
The thing about pain is that regardless of whether the pain is justified or not, it’s still pain.
The quandary I have is that I don’t know how to really understand 1Tim 3:7 in such a way that these responses don’t indicate a failure of compliance with the requirements of being an overseer. It’s not that everyone is called to be an overseer or pastor; I know I’m not! Yet compliance is a desirable thing, I think.
The observation I have is that I need to make sure that I’m not acting in such a way that others feel as I do right now, that a failure to meet an external requirement is laid at my feet without due cause.
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