Tuesday, February 22

A noble work

"This saying is trustworthy: "If anyone aspires to be an overseer, he desires a noble work." An overseer, therefore, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, self-controlled, sensible, respectable, hospitable, an able teacher, not addicted to wine, not a bully but gentle, not quarrelsome, not greedy-- one who manages his own household competently, having his children under control with all dignity. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of God's church?) He must not be a new convert, or he might become conceited and fall into the condemnation of the Devil. Furthermore, he must have a good reputation among outsiders, so that he does not fall into disgrace and the Devil's trap." (1st Timothy 3:1-7 HCSB)

These verses were given to me to ‘chew on’ and seek some answers to some questions prompted by my mentor. The thing that hits me first is that anyone aspiring to be an overseer (pastor, elder, leader in the Christian body) is seeking a noble thing, something that is of worthy note and trustworthy to say of those whom have this ‘affliction of the Spirit.’ And, that prompts me to ask the obvious question of who wouldn’t want to pursue ‘noble’ work in the community of Christ. It strikes me though, as I remember the reading I’m doing of Timothy Keller’s “The Prodigal God” that sometimes our intention in doing the ‘noble work’ is nothing more than a ‘what can I get’ elder brother entitlement.

Of course, immediately around this corner of praise for the desire to do ‘noble work’ comes the roadblock I’ve dealt with most of my life; the ‘above reproach’ or ‘blameless’ in other translations. I am far from being blameless in my eyes; I still struggle and commit sins (I will never be totally perfect). I am far from an ‘ideal’ overseer if this is the case, well beyond my ‘nobility of purpose.’ And it depresses me. The Free Dictionary defines blameless as an adjective meaning free of guilt and not subject to blame. The Thesaurus adds inculpable, irreproachable or unimpeachable to the words similar to blameless. Vincent’s Word Studies give what I think is the best definition….without reproach: one who cannot be laid hold of : who gives no ground for accusation.” Can I say that I have given no ground for accusation? There is a difference between being accused and giving a reason to be accused.

The husband of one wife is an easy one, even with the divorce in my life from my ex. I am grounded in biblical basis for the divorce and that is enough said. A friend has asked me if I saw a reuniting in the future, ever, and I had to disagree because of the differenting paths of belief that we’ve both taken since that time. But I believe that God can do all things and right now He has shown me in powerful ways the idol I have made of an intimate relationship with a woman that destroys His rightful place in my life. So, I can feel relatively ‘safe’ in meeting the requirement of being of ‘one woman.’ There isn’t any.

It is the continuing list that has me alternating between ‘respectful yes-s’ and ‘shameful no-s.’

Thinking about this verse, and the ones that are usually ‘thrown’ up with these in support (see Titus 1:6-9), just makes me wonder why I bother and why I even seem to not learn to stop beating my head against the wall of improbability and impossibility when it comes to the vision I have been given and the vision that many other see that doesn’t even come close. Why do I dream of lofty places when most people think I belong down in the valleys? Not saying that my mentor does, but that’s the context in which these verses have been presented to me in the past.

I am not overseer material, apparently.

I do not dream of buildings with my name upon the entrances, plaques strewn about the hallways of commerce or avenues of merit. I don’t think of books with my names on them that become the literary staple of college courses. I don’t dream of millions upon millions that lift my name up as the one major factor in realizing the hope of their future, the joy of their life and the meaning behind the mysteries that float in the skies of their dreams at night. I do not envision a multi-sited, mega-sized and incorporated entity bearing my character in its motions and meetings.

I dream of nobility.

When I think of a noble work, I think of a soup kitchen line of hungry people clad in clothes that are too threadbare and worn to be considered for sale at the Salvation Army and the greatest honor of being able to ladle food on a plate with a smile and a kind word. I think of clasping a new friend on the back of the shoulder, the prelude to a hug (for brothers don’t shake hands, they hug). I think of faces breaking into cracks as smiles light up their faces because they have the inescapable feeling that they are loved, that they are cherished and that they have been seen.

I have been there, where the people of the Bowery Mission are and what they have faced. I have seen addictions like they have, I have experienced sorrow so deep it transforms a life once so full of joy as they have and I have been homeless as some of them still will be. I have been at the wits end of my life, trying suicide to stop the pain and watched the world gang up on me to consume me and I have swallowed the bitter pill of realizing that I cannot even do that. I have been where they are living and what they have going through.

I dream of them experiencing the hope I have found and seeing the transformation of the world as I have through the eyes of a Savior. I dream of seeing the hope renewed daily in their eyes as they feel the big, hairy and massive arms of a Father wrapped around them as His robe is thrown over their shoulders and a fatted calf is sacrificed for a big party.

I dream of standing outside the Pearly gates of Heaven and smiling as they pass by to feast at their Father’s banquet, not for some recognition in their faces or a kind word in passing but to see them once again coming home to their Mansions and no more wants. I dream of rattling off their names; Raymond, Cuba, Johnny, Peter, Marvin, Chris, Jose, Joshua, Irvin, Bobby, Ernie, Carl, Sory, Allen, Ezequiel, Cyde and Johnathan and seeing that hope dawning forever in their faces as they are greeted by Jesus and surrounded by those who love and cherish them.

Titles and positions can be thrown into the dirt over the chance to do such noble work. The rest is relative.

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