The story of Above Reproach is related to the story of Integrity …in fact, they might even be the same person in slightly different outfits; or slightly different colognes on the same body – but with both outfits being objectively pleasing to God’s eye, and both aromas pleasing in God’s nostrils.
|inˈtegritē| is the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; or the state of being whole and undivided.
In Paul’s first letter to Timothy he explicitly says that an episkopos must be ABOVE REPROACH. Many (especially when you simply observe their public practices and performed behaviors) interpret and apply this as if it means “Don’t be honest, but rather hide, perform, and pretend to have graduated from the substantive, specific, and sustained need to repent. Or – in short – be above the need to repent. In other words, the Pharisee Nicodemus would certainly be seen as “Above Reproach” in the eyes of the visible church in America (2018). The colossal problem with this is that Jesus aims His most violent, incessant, and emphatic warnings at this understanding of what it looks like to be above reproach. Being utterly committed to the Word of God, Jesus insists that we see ans savor the fact that the stories & liturgies of the It Is Written DO NOT support this superficial interpretation and application of above reproach.
So now you have some story-inhabiting work to do…
How do the following liturgies impact your imagination of being above reproach?
Our fathers were all under the cloud, and they passed through the sea, and they were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and they ate miraculous spiritual food, and they drank supernatural spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness! …Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did; and yet if we’re honest we must admit that our evil desires seem insurmountable inside of us! For sin, seizing an opportunity through the good commandments of God, produce in us all kinds of covetousness! We are expressly told not to be idolaters as our fathers were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.” Yet we feel Jeremiah’s piercing words to be true of us, “The heart is deceitful above all things,and desperately sick; who can understand it?” And we feel the weight of Jesus’ Words, “But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of our fathers did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day! We must not put Christ to the test, as our fathers did and were destroyed by serpents, nor grumble, as our fathers did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall (TIP: this part I just made BOLD is the application of this liturgy!). No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.
What is THE WAY OF ESCAPE? What is the secret to ENDURANCE?
Chronic Repentance. Always, always, always being ready to REPENT, and regularly Repenting [Matthew 3:8].
This is what Jesus’ loyal friend Peter learned during the following discourse with his rabbi, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you,that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” Peter said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.” Jesus said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me.”
Being a whole/undivided, above reproach/honest, person sounds like this, “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate [that’s honest!] …Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?“
AND HERE’S THE CATCH…
If you succumb to a life of unabating authentic repentance you’ll find yourself experiencing the substantial and supernatural side effect of JOY! Because there is more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance!