An elder must be blameless, (Titus 1:6)
Paul creates a character profile for Titus to use in the selection of elders on Crete. You may be familiar with a similar list the apostle gave to Timothy (1Timothy 3:1-7)). The list begins with the topic of “blamelessness.”
Blamelessness does not necessarily suggest perfection, although Jesus was both blameless and perfect. Instead, a blameless person is someone who is not prone to constant scrutiny and accusation.
The reason an elder, or any church leader, should be blameless is two-fold. First, his example sets a tone for the spiritual and moral character of the church. Secondly, his life represents his church family in his community, and therefore speaks volumes about the ability of Christ to transform lives.
If a church leader is constantly under fire for his words and actions, he might be more of a detriment to the people he is leading than an asset. This truth is evident, but not always easy to apply in practical terms. Allow me to explain:
On occasion a church leader will be falsely accused by his enemies, or find himself the focus of a contentious debate in his community. Should he step down until these matters are settled, or because his role in society affects people’s opinion of his church family? If this is true, then the church will never benefit from the experience of public servants who are often embroiled in controversy.
There might also be unflattering events in a leader’s past that draw criticism. The Apostle Paul murdered Christians for a living before becoming a gospel missionary to the Gentiles. A careful reading of the scriptures will indicate he didn’t throw himself fully into this new calling until after a season of personal reflection. But this still raises the question of the place one’s past should hold when it comes to the subject of blamelessness. How much does the past matter, and if it does, how much time must go by before a leader is cleared for service?
I don’t claim to have perfect wisdom in this area, but I have concluded character is a matter of the heart. A blameless person doesn’t flirt with sin, but establishes boundaries in his life to avoid the inevitable snares Satan will put in his path. And even with this, he recognizes he is vulnerable. He walks in humility with an eye toward heaven, his source of spiritual strength, and a system of accountability with others. When he is caught in a trap, he finds help, and seeks a sincere process of restoration.
Every church family and every individual must decide, based on a multitude of factors, what allows one to rise to the level of blamelessness. But, in a real sense, it should be every believer’s goal to be blameless. Imagine the power the Lord’s church would have if others were unable to find any credible reason to accuse her.
Dear God, remind me how much character matters. In Jesus’ name, Amen.