This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you - if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination. For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.I know you're shocked that I am taking such a big chunk of this passage this week, but to unpack "blameless" again seems somewhat fruitless for me to do when Paul and the Holy Spirit went ahead and did it for us.
Here's the thing: I know you get this already, but Paul is lining out for Titus what he should do to pick men to be "elders" for the church in order to "set things right". And in doing that, Paul is ultimately saying in this list, "not this, but that" -- giving Titus (and us, and specifically you, dear pastor reader) not just a list of disqualifications but a list of qualifications which point to a certain kind of man.
And to see what kind of man this is, we should see the similarities of that list to this list:
Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. [Gal 5 for the verse wonks]For Paul, the question of "impeccability" wasn't even a question -- but for the rest of us, apparently, it is because we want to immediately dive into the "yeah but nobody's perfect but Christ" routine and thereby make this passage a lot of big ideas with no practical use.
But Paul was giving Titus practical instructions. If these were the things Titus was supposed to look for, why would Paul give him a list of unattainable attributes? So Paul is not looking for the male version of the Catholic ideal of the virgin Mary: he's looking for someone who has demonstrated a repentance from the sin of this world and also a meaningful, fruitful relationship with Christ. That is, he's telling Titus to find men who have a faith that is working in them.
I think Paul didn't see the list as unattainable. I think he saw it as the consequences of real, mature faith. Indeed, if we take Paul seriously as he gives essentially the same list to the Galatians, we see this kind of life as one which has received grace and lives by faith.
What we want -- us, the people reading Paul and liking him as an example in the faith -- I think, is for everyone to be qualified to be an elder if they want to be; what Paul wants is for everyone who wants to be an elder to attain some kind of maturity in the faith first. It's a good thing to want to be an elder. But it's a better thing -- and the right thing -- to be qualified as "blameless".
This'll get a part 2 next week, but mull that over a while.