The Pastors Workshop
Are You Pure, Upright, and Blameless?
This is the tenth installment of Dr. Roberts' "Master Class for Pastors." The first parts are the Introduction, "Who Are Your Partners?" "The Impact of Thanksgiving," "How Do You Talk About Your Church?" "Understanding Your Cultural Context," "Nine Stereotypes for Pastors," "Pastoring is Always Personal," "Pastoring in Always Personal: Is This Good News or Bad News?" "The Danger of 'Clergyism'."
Every now and then I come upon a verse in the Bible that makes me ask: "Really? Is this really so? Am I really supposed to take this seriously? Am I really supposed to be like this?" 1 Thessalonians 2:10 is such a verse. It's not especially difficult to translate. And the theology of this verse isn't particularly obscure. But it makes a claim I find most unsettling: "You are witnesses, and God also, how pure, upright, and blameless our conduct was toward you believers."
Wow! Could you say this to your congregation? Honestly?
It's possible for clever clergypersons to appear to their congregations as if they were pure, upright, and blameless. Most of us know how to play the role of the perfect pastor. But, Paul adds that God would vouch for him and his colleagues in regard to their purity, uprightness, and blamelessness. It's pretty hard to fool God when it comes to such things, don't you think?
The Greek words translated as "pure, upright, and blameless" convey a sense of utter, thoroughgoing, consistent godliness. You might see pure (hosios in Greek) as emphasizing Paul's relationship with God. He honored God in all that he did. "Righteous" (dikaios) might describe Paul's human relationships. They were rightly ordered according to God's standards. "Blameless" (amemptos) attends to the broader social context in which Paul served. He acted in such a way that the non-Christian folk who observed him in action could not fault him for his behavior, even though they rejected his theology.
Mark D. Roberts is Senior Director and Scholar-in-Residence for Laity Lodge, a retreat and renewal ministry in Texas. He blogs at Patheos and writes daily devotionals at www.thehighcalling.org, and he can also be followed through Twitter and Facebook.