1 TIMOTHY 5:21-25 CHOOSING LEADERS
21 I charge you, in the sight of God and Christ Jesus and the elect angels, to keep these instructions without partiality, and to do nothing out of favoritism.
22 Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, and do not share in the sins of others. Keep yourself pure. 23 Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses.
24 The sins of some men are obvious, reaching the place of judgment ahead of them; the sins of others trail behind them. 25 In the same way, good deeds are obvious, and even those that are not cannot be hidden.
When I first met my wife we did not think much of each other. In fact we jumped to conclusions that if it had not been for intervening events that forced us into each other’s presence we probably would not have spent any time together, let alone gotten married. Yet here we are decades, children and grandchildren later happily married. Our first impressions of another person can, and often are wrong, for better or for worse.
Dealing with people in the church is fraught with danger because of the role of the community in witnessing to God and the eternal implications of all we do. Therefore we need to avoid making decisions based on first impressions or our innate prejudices. There is no substitute for the tedious and time consuming work of relationship building. The call here is to exercise caution and not an excuse for indecisiveness. Even in our conversations we have all experienced the wisdom of not blurting out the first response that comes into our minds, but to think it over before saying it. Often we avoid huge misunderstandings by thinking through our response, with the result being we modify it or decide it is not appropriate at all.
In a church culture that elects its leaders rather than having them appointed, this teaching has application for every member of the church. You owe it to the church and to God to establish relationships with your fellow members and observe how they interact with others and live their lives so that if called upon you can discern their suitability for leadership. Christian character and not race, gender, wealth, appearance or age, is the critical criterion for church leadership. Such character is only revealed over time.
Holy Spirit, infuse me with the desire to know people and value them for whom they really are and not what I first think of them. Convict me of the need to take my role in choosing church leaders seriously and empower me to fully invest in the process and the people. Guide me past my prejudices and superficial preferences and to your will. Amen.