…not violent (Titus1:7d)
Sometimes other translations of the Bible have a way of rounding out our understanding of a passage. This is because translators must sometimes decide between a primary or secondary meaning of a word, depending on the context. But the two meanings put together can complete a picture.
In the old King James Version of the Bible “not violent” is translated: “not a striker.” Indeed, the first meaning is of one “ready to strike a blow.” So it is safe to say an elder should not be someone who is carrying a chip on his shoulder, and is apt to lash out in a violent act with little provocation.
I have always heard people who use violence as their primary means of communication have not learned how to express their thoughts and emotions in healthy ways. In fact, this is why a lot of small children have to be taught not to hit. They can’t always find the words or the means to share their unhappiness. So they hit. And their mothers work tirelessly to teach them a better way.
It is possible for this trait to follow a child into the teenage years, and on occasion into adulthood. To complicate matters, as people grow older, they face complex frustrations that require delicate diplomacy. And they hit…or worse.
Please understand, this “not violent” characteristic doesn’t mean a leader should never use physical force. If an intruder is threatening his family, he certainly would not be expected to stand in the corner and say, “I would like to help, but I’m not a striker.” No, he should employ every method of persuasion, including the use of force to protect his loved ones. The same is true of those who uphold the law, locally, nationally and internationally.
Rather, the flaw being exposed here is the inability to process a threat and act with wisdom. It also reflects one’s inability to think of the welfare of the church body and the tone an attitude prone to violence can set.
My father used to talk about families that love to fight. He used to say, “If they don’t have a reason to fight, they will make up one.” I tend to think a “striker” has this philosophy. Given enough time, and a few unresolved conflicts, he will find himself in the middle of a ruckus. And when other members of the church family see how he handles conflict, they will follow his example. After all, why should people ask for God to help them navigate a problem when they can just put a fist through it?
Given the personality conflicts Jesus’ apostles had with one another, I can’t remember a single incident of a physical skirmish between them (please let me know if I am mistaken). I find this amazing since at least four of them were rugged fishermen and one was a tax-collector. Surely, they would have found something to fight about.
I imagine they did. But they didn’t hit. They must have had good mothers.
Dear God, teach me how to manage conflict. In Jesus’ name, Amen.