Reading from Titus 1 lately, as I’ve mentioned and I came to a passage on the qualifications for elders. Interesting how we can easily look at passages like this and say “I’m not running for any sort of position so these don’t really apply to me.” It is similar to saying… I’m not studying to be a rocket scientist so I don’t need math. I’m not going to be a politician so I don’t need to know how government works. I’m not going to be a doctor so I don’t need to know anatomy. I’m not going to ever run a marathon so I don’t really need to be in good shape.
The problem with the logic of these arguments are that they are built on a soul-killing foundation. I only need what I need to get through my chosen path.
While there may be some truth to the above statements, the damaging thought is that we are searching for life that fits categories rather than living life out of one particular center, from one motivation and one source.
This is, I believe, an incredibly helpful tool in helping us to understand the New Testament.
Titus is hearing from Paul about what kind of people should be leading the communities of believers in Crete, a struggling and pagan-heavy region, and he gives him several qualities. I want to focus on six (1:8 from the NRSV translation):
Hospitable. Lovers of goodness. Prudent. Upright. Devout. Self-controlled.
Two thoughts can come up: first off yes, these are good things for leaders of churches to have. And two, thank God I’m not called to be a leader in my church (unless I’m a woman who goes to a church that doesn’t allow women to lead, which is a different blog post altogether).
We make a huge mistake if we leave it at that however. The point is that Paul is not recommending Titus seek out these people because that’s a good set of personality traits for a leader. Nope. This isn’t about job placement.
Paul is saying “This is what someone who is in touch with God looks like – someone who lives life with Jesus everyday, someone who is allow the Spirit to guide their every step and action.”
He starts from a different place. You aren’t a leader because you have these personality traits, because you aren’t able to have these traits without a powerful and intimate connection with Jesus and His Spirit.
You can’t live up to this. You can’t muster up the zeal to fulfill even these six characteristics (there are others in Titus 1).
Instead of starting with the qualifications and saying, “Whew, glad I’m not supposed to be a leader,” we start with the reality that if we pursue a transformational relationship with Jesus this is what we’ll look like – leaders or not. The same thinking is going on in Galatians 5 when Paul talks about the “fruit of the Spirit.” This isn’t about trying to produce fruit.
Trees don’t TRY to produce fruit. They take nutrients from the soil, which God designed and rain that God gives, and they live. They produce fruit because that’s who they ARE.
So today, take these six qualities in Titus 1:8 and ask yourself some critical questions: 1. Am I a person who has the intimate, transformational connection with Jesus and His Spirit that would lead me to look like this? 2. In which of these areas (the six characteristics) am I currently struggling? Why? 3. How would my life be different if I invited Jesus into these areas to do work of transformation?
Reflections and questions are welcome.