Take One: The door swings open and you walk into the northwest lobby just as you do every Monday morning. A small group, huddled around the water cooler, quickly hushes each other as four pairs of beady eyes glare over the edge of their glasses at you. What a feeling. Your heart sinks to your stomach and your lungs fill with the air of judgment and distain. Take Two: The door swings open and you walk into the northwest lobby just as you do every Monday morning. A small group, huddled around the water cooler, spots you from their peripheral vision. They look, smile, and maybe even give you “the nod”. One of them breaks off from the herd to escort you down the hallway to your cubicle. You know it is going to be yet another great week.
When you walk into a room, what are the immediate associations or accusations that follow your name? Are you a man of godly integrity? If you are an elder, the answer needs to be a resounding yes. From co-workers, custodians, and choir members, to peers, parents, and police officers- all your interactions should clothed in righteousness in such a way that results in, nay, demands, respect. Titus 1:6 tells us that an elder should be blameless and live a life above reproach! 1 Timothy 3:7 tells us that even the people outside the church should speak well of a man in an eldership position!
Let’s look at the word ‘outsiders’. Merriam-Webster’s defines it as persons who do not fit into a group, in this case the group being believers. The Greek word for this is ἔξωθεν. So another way to read that “he should be a man who is respected by the outsiders’ would be to say’ he should be a man who is respected by those who are not believers’ or ‘… by those who are not followers of Christ.’ Scripture also tells elders to be blameless (Titus 1:6) In the greek, blameless here is ἀνέγκλητος which means free from reproach or without stain.
I think this qualification for eldership is fairly unchanging in it’s application for leaders throughout the ages. Perhaps the “outsiders” look a little different two thousand years later-but the principles remain. As Paul dictated this letter, he might have had images of Roman prison guards, Pharisees, or local fishermen in his head. For today’s church I think of a cashier at Starbucks, NPR news, and your son’s third grade teacher as the “outsiders”. Whether it be in the media or in the community, an elder needs to be respected by the unbelievers where he lives and works.
One of my favorite Aristotle quotes is, “The mark of an educated mind is the ability to entertain a thought without accepting it.” Though the world rejects our beliefs and denies our truth, God has still blessed it with the common grace of intellect. It is our responsibility as the redeemed, and more especially for elders, to be able to present the gospel in a way that glorifies God. Living a gospel centered life permeates every fiber of the being. Though they may vehemently disagree with our theology we are still called to be living a life so full of integrity and so radically blameless that they cannot help but respect us. Remembering that “the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. 25 Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will. “(2 Timothy 2:24-26)