Who are we?

In this blog, there will be a variety of material: thoughts on Bible books, book reviews, historical characters, aspects of Scottish church history and other things.

Saturday, 24 May 2014

What must an elder avoid (1 Peter 5:2-3)

Peter mentions three temptations that will affect Christian leaders. They are a reluctant attitude, an intention to get wrong profit, and a dictatorial spirit.

First, an elder will not want to leave one of Christ’s sheep in spiritual distress; he may find that he cannot help the struggling believer, but he cannot remain indifferent. When he finds himself out of his depth, he will call out to the Chief Shepherd for help, and it is amazing how quickly the right words come. But a reluctant person will forget to pray truly for divine help. He might offer a prayer as an attempt not to get involved, but that does not work. Reluctance is a terrible attitude in a professed carer of Christ’s sheep. The true elder will continually say to himself, ‘How would God want me to deal with this sheep?’ 

Second, an elder will not use Christ’s sheep as a means of self-promotion. This means that he does nothing with the aim of getting a reward for doing it. It is inevitable that those who are helped will express their gratitude and that is a different matter. But it is possible, for example, for an elder not to pay any attention to a Christian who is poor but instead to spend his energies on those he knows will help him in a variety of ways. In other words, this kind of temptation is a reversal of what should happen. Instead of working to help the other person, this kind of elder works in order to be helped by the other person. Peter says such a motive is wrong. 

Third, an elder will not be a bully (domineering), forcing others to do what he wants, even when he is right. Peter himself is an example of how elders should behave: he as an apostle could have coerced his fellow-elders to obey him, but he had learned a better way of achieving his goal. There are bullies in the Christian church, and they often use orthodox language. Yet bullies are very ineffective in a spiritual way and instead of helping develop church life they destroy it. The best remedy for stifling such a danger is for the elder to remember that the flock belongs to God.

An elder should never exhort someone to perform a spiritual duty he is refusing to do himself. Instead he is to be an example to the flock. If we run through the list of qualifications for eldership in 1 Timothy 1 and Titus 1, we will see that apart from being apt to teach all the other qualifications should be found in every Christian. In other words, what distinguishes an elder is that he is a consistently good example – not a perfect example, but a person who is growing in grace. When an elder lives like this, he does not have to be a bully. 

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