May 22, 2014

Blamelessness Is A Non-Negotiable, Part II: Just Out of Reach

If a Christian is to be beyond reproach or blameless then a Christian must be able to live in such a way that no one will be able to level valid accusations about their character and have it stick or be a true statement.

The Greek word for blameless or ἀνέγκλητος (anegkletos) in Titus and ἀνεπίλημπτον (anepilempton) in 1 Timothy 3:1 means more than just blameless. The word ἀνεπίλημπτον / anepilampton in particular is actually a compound word constructed of the word lambano which means “to take” and a prefix epi which means “upon”. Therefore the combination means to lay hands upon. When used in the context of blamelessness or beyond reproach it is saying my character needs be so far beyond someone else’s ability to criticize it that no one should even be able to touch it. This includes slighting me even indirectly with a criticism…or my walk might be compromised. There should be nothing there for someone to base an unfounded accusation upon. My character needs to be spotless and Teflon when it comes to negative critique. Why? Because if I am a Christian and someone can cast doubt upon my character….they are in essence casting doubt and reproach upon Jesus Himself. It is saying that the power of Christ is not powerful enough to change my character to become blameless. Therefore it is not worth aspiring or trying to gain the power of Christ.

So what does blamelessness look like when someone cannot take hold of you with demeaning characterizations? Paul actually gave Timothy and Titus a detailed list that outlined exactly what it means for a godly leader to be above reproach (therefore anyone that follows that person’s teaching also). Besides blameless they must be faithful to one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent, gentle, not quarrelsome, not greedy. He must also manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect. Additionally he must not be a recent convert and he must also have a good reputation with outsiders. A list in Titus alludes to similar qualifications.

Above all what Paul is looking for is person with their heart towards God with a sum character that embodies the qualities of moral excellence. It is the kind of person that would that motivates other people to do the right thing in an attempt to emulate them…just like Jesus. That means that whatever is going on inside the psyches of these people is exactly represented by their outward behavior. That is because the external pressures really should have little effect on a Christian. This is because the one that is above reproach or blameless is tightly tied to God and this requires a relationship with God that is of the highest integrity as their behaviors should be an outflowing of the God who is within.

As God is morally and ethically correct attributes and He is indwelling the believer we should also see signs of other things not even mentioned directly in Scripture but are covered by the description of blameless.  There should be accountability for actions. There should be loyalty like we see in the military since all Christians are at war every single day with the powers of this world and Satan. We should at least be responding to temptation with an attitude of incorruptibility. We should be honest, trustworthy and always doing the right thing (in accordance with Scripture) no matter what. In a word, these could all fit under the mantle of integrity.

We will not just wake up one day blameless and bursting with integrity. As I learned from my father’s behavior over his lifetime, both are cultivated in the fields and events of our lives. They are cultivated by a tight bond between God and ourselves. This requires constant prayer and study of God’s word. Integrity and blamelessness is grown like fruits on a tree or like vegatables in the ground. Day by day, choice after choice we move forward until our emotional and spiritual bank account is full. It is at this juncture that we see the fruit of consistent morally upright behavior. None of this would even be possible if it wasn’t for the work of Christ on the Cross. It is all through grace and God working with us and through us.

Blamelessness should not be confused as a spiritual gift either. It comes at our own personal cost. It demands discipline and sacrifice. Our salvation may be free if we repent having been paid for by Christ but our sanctification and discipleship are the demands for where we are going when it comes to being beyond reproach. This is a discipline lived day in and day out. It isn’t as if we can slack off either. One failure taints a thousand successes. We are not afforded the luxury of failure when people are watching. So we need to live like we are being watched 24/7. The truth is, we are. God sees every move we make. This should be a sobering thought for all that wish to lead or teach even one person.

To be able to teach godly character we must live a life of godly character. This requires honest and harsh self-examination. That examination needs to be matched against God and the Bible. Expect to fall short but never stop striving. We need to never forget that we are the tools God gave us for the job. We are our own blackboard or our own guinea pig.  We are the test case. We are the carrot in front of the horse (or rabbit if you will). If it doesn’t show in us, how are we to expect it to show in others? If we are our own toolbox it warrants that we keep our saws sharpened and our axes ground. No one wishes to go to task with dull tools. We need to stay sharp and ready for use.

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