When I was still in high school preparing to go to Bible School, I remember an old pastor friend of mine giving me some advice. Part of that advice was a story he had about when he himself was about to enter Bible College – before arriving, the students were asked to memorize Titus. He apparently thought it was a joke, or at least he didn’t take it seriously. But to his horror, when he arrived at school, he realized the expectation was serious and he was one of very few students who did not complete the assignment.
I forget the exact lesson he was trying to teach me with that anecdote, but ever since then (and that was almost 15 years ago now!), I’ve always had Titus on my radar. Of course I had learned a whole bunch about it since then, like the fact that it is one of the main source texts for the qualifications of a Church Elder, which I believe is why that pastor friend had been asked to memorize it. And which is why, when we got a new Senior Pastor at NorthLife a few years ago, one of the first things he started doing was working through Titus with us, his Ministry Team.
I still remember one of the points he was trying to make about being a Pastor. He said that Pastors should have such a reputation that people won’t be able to say “Really? He’s your pastor?” That has stuck with me ever since we had that discussion (and he has repeated it several times in other discussions and even in sermons). It was quite an interesting way to say what Titus 1 says is probably the most important qualification of an elder: to be “above reproach”.
Even that is an important consideration. Why do I think being “above reproach” is the most important qualification, in a list that includes important items such as being a lover of good, and being upright, and being holy?! (Titus 1:8). Well, for one thing, Paul repeats the requirement twice: in verses 6 and 7. For another, it would seem to me like, just as Jesus said the whole law hinges on two commandments (to love God and love your neighbours), that the list of being an elder hinges of being above reproach.
And a heavy requirement it certainly is. When you look at the characteristics outlined, both positive (be hospitable, self controlled…) and negative (don’t be arrogant, quick-tempered…), they seem to be like the attainable characteristics that, for example, the 10 commandments are. But just as Jesus really elevated the requirements of the law (anger = violence, lust = adultery), I think this idea of “being above reproach” really elevates these somewhat simple characteristics to a level where someone can’t say, “Really? He’s your pastor?”
This Titus series is part of a challenge that my cousin, Luis, and I are doing together. We are trying to blog every week for the next year. To start off the challenge, I’ve chosen to write my entries on Paul’s Epistle to Titus because I am currently doing my main study in it. I will probably spend 10-12 weeks on this series.