The focus this week was what a church leader is and is not to be. We read in 1 Timothy 3, Titus 3, and Galatians 5 the expectations of those in leadership. Each of these passages include difficult words for those who desire to lead the church. As my mentor says, as we read scripture, we should first think of what grates us. Well, these passages leave me like a block of cheese on the surface of a grater -- totally shredded.
Let me me clear. I wholly and fully trust the words and expectations of leaders laid out in these passages. They are not included in scripture to just glaze over and take with a grain of salt. Instead, they are commands. They are commands that propel us to personal righteousness (which means to be made holy, which means to be set apart...righteousness is a good thing). They are also words that remind us of the title we carry as "pastor" and what it means. These passages are included because of the many eyes watching and ears listening to what we as leaders are doing. Without an eye and heart tuned to these words, our leadership can slowly fade to gray, until desires of the flesh have pulled us so far from the Spirit, that our work is contrary to the Spirit.(Galatians 5:17)
As I read these passages, I am acutely aware of the noble calling of those who are to lead the church. But the words grate because I realize just how short I fall. All three passages, depending on the translation you read, include the words "blameless." Blameless. An adjective which means innocent of wrong doing. How in the world can I ever, as a fallen human being, be blameless? I am so guilty. So guilty of so many things. I see in myself each of the warnings of these words. Lord, forgive me...I have sinned.
Each day I fail at blamelessness as I fall once again. Each day I wake and pray for God to work mightily in my own heart and life so that I am purified and worthy of what he has called me to. But the "devil just won't let me forget." I find myself feeling unworthy of this call. I find myself focusing on what I have done wrong, where I have messed up and counting all the ways others are counting up my mistakes.
And then I think about the rest of the words of Galatians 5. Galatians lays out what the desires of the flesh are and then reminds us and encourages us in the fruits of the spirit: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, goodness and self-control. We are reminded that those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the desires of the flesh. We have put them to death. And in putting the earthy desires to death, we live by the Spirit, we keep in step with the Spirit. It is in our living by the Spirit and being in step with the Spirit that we strive towards the goal of blamelessness.
It's interesting the words Paul uses. "Let us keep in step with the Spirit." The words "let us" imply that we need reminding of to whom we belong. We need reminding that we must keep connected to the Lord in our leadership. As soon as we take a baby step away, it leaves a foothold for the desires of the flesh, a foothold for blame, a foothold for the enemy to grab. I think of a rock climbing wall. The foothold need not be big for the enemy to gain great strides. So, let us keep in step with the Spirit!
I know in my work, I get busy. In my home life, with kids' activities, a marriage to nurture, and seminary work, I leave my life wide open to the smallest foothold. But I can strive to live by the spirit, to keep in step with the spirit. Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on me.
I want to be blameless before you. I want to be worthy of this noble calling. Help me, Lord, to keep my eyes ever fixed on you, to remain in step with you. Lord I know without my eyes fixed on you, the battle that rages within me will be tipped in favor of the enemy who longs to devour me. Remind me - daily - of your goodness, your provision, your forgiveness and your love. And sustain me in the times when I do not realize my need is you. Lord God, you are good. Thank you for revealing yourself to me.