One good thing about scandal is that it produces questions. This newest scandal involving Bishop Eddie Long is no exception. Ralph has made the following statement that I would like to take the time to address. Ralph stated;
In this case the fear is that if someone can’t live it than they would be discrediting the very thing they preach which hopefully is about Christ. If I could edit Ralph’s statement a bit I would say something like;
If you can’t live it than you than you have no business preaching and teaching anyone in the first place.
That sounds rather harsh doesn’t it? If it is that’s because it’s intended to be harsh. James 3:1 is fairly straightforward in its message;
Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.
Sometimes I don’t believe people take that passage seriously enough. There are misguided folks in pulpits and in other venues that have no business teaching or preaching but yet they still do. Let’s take a look at some of the requirements for elder;
Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.
Of the fifteen requirements Paul gives to Timothy thirteen of them have to do with character. There is a word here I want you to understand here. The word “must” in the Greek language means “a necessity” meaning it was necessary that the men who desired to be elders already had good character and then maybe they would be appointed elder. Just because a man met the 15 requirements didn’t mean he would become an elder of the church. Let’s see what Paul instructed Titus to do in regards to who would be appointed elder of the church;
This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you–if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination. For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.
Again, the main emphasis is on the man’s character. For anyone to say that character doesn’t matter than they haven’t a clue as to what they are talking about.
In 2 Peter 2 we see what one of these folks with bad character looks like. They are described as;
Bold and willful (v10)
No fear of God as the blaspheme (v10)
Eyes full of adultery (v14)
Insatiable for sin (v14)
Slaves of corruption (v19)
Each of the issues Peter raised is the direct result of folks with bad character. Not pretty is it?
So you see Ralph is absolutely correct. If you can’t live it don’t preach it and according to Peter and Paul those who don’t live it shouldn’t be preaching in the first place!
Finally, good character is a necessity for our Christian leaders to possess. We can’t expect them to be sinless or doctrinally pure as none of us are but these men are required to have good character which has been tested prior to them ever given a role in church leadership. Remember what Jesus commanded Peter to do days after Peter denied even knowing him?
When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.”He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.
Jesus expects you leaders to feed His sheep not fleece His sheep and only men of good character meet the qualifications to do so!