For a bishop must be… not violent. (Titus 1:7)
As we read what the Apostle Paul wrote as a description of the character Titus should look for in leaders among God’s people, it’s good for us to ask: If I’m not a leader among the people of God, and don’t plan on being a leader, why should I care about this list? I can think of a few reasons why every Christian should care about this list.
- Every Christian should care about this list because it gives God’s description of what spiritual maturity and godliness practically look like. We may never have the calling to leadership, but every Christian should grow towards the character of a godly leader.
- It helps us to understand what God expects of the leaders we should respect and pray for in God’s church.
- In many ways it gives us a wonderful description of Jesus in His earthly life. He perfectly fulfilled all God’s expectations for leaders.
Here, the fifth quality (or sixth, depending on how one counts) is that the bishop or leader must be not violent. It should go without saying, but it still needs to be said: there is no place for a leader among God’s people who is violent towards others.
He must not be violent towards those he works with, and those who in some sense work for him. He must not be violent in any way that would force himself upon a woman. He must never be violent towards his wife, and if it is appropriate for him to spank his children it must always be done without anger and in proper measure.
Normally, we think of only two exceptions to this for a leader among God’s people. The first is if he does it in correct measure under proper authority, as a solider or an officer of the law. The second is if he does it in self-defense, and then only in proper measure.
Yet there is something else to see here, pointed out by William Barclay. He said that the ancient Greeks understood the meaning of this word to include not only physical violence, but also verbal abuse. It might be that this was Paul’s focus here. Usually we understand that those who have a problem with physical violence are not qualified for church leadership. But it is more common to make excuses or overlook when a man is verbally abusive to others, especially if he thinks he does it for the goal of church work or ministry. But if someone is consistently verbally abusive to others (not necessarily the occasional, rare outburst), they should not be leading God’s people.
Think about it: Jesus was never violent or abusive. He spoke strong words of rebuke, but never in a sinful way. He turned over tables in the temple courts, but never struck another person. To pay our debt of sin, Jesus received violence; He didn’t give it out. If you have a problem with being physically or verbally violent to others, remember that Jesus took violence on Himself to pay for that sin, to defeat its power in your life, and to pour out His grace upon you to help build new habits that please God. Jesus also died to rescue the violent man, and to transform him into a strong yet gentle man, into the image of God’s Son.