“not a drunkard, not violent, but gentle, not contentious, free from the love of money” (1 Timothy 3:3).
We rarely have to look too long or too hard to find those who are argumentative and confrontational. However, 1 Timothy 3:3 tells us that a bishop, pastor, or overseer should not reflect these characteristics.
You see, a congregational leader should be someone who is not “…a violent man, but gentle and peaceful…” (GNT). While an overseer is often called upon to manage conflict, he must not be someone who approaches that responsibility in a violent or unnecessarily confrontational manner.
This is especially true in today’s internet age where the comments section of a post or media presentation provides an opportunity for disputes and quarrels to develop. It is often challenging to avoid being drawn into an altercation with those who seem intent on provoking an argument in this manner. Therefore, the qualities of gentleness and peacefulness are valuable (and necessary) attributes for a good pastoral leader.
Of course, this is nothing new. In fact, Paul the Apostle was familiar with those who exhibited similar characteristics in his day. As Paul will later go on to say in the book of 2 Timothy…
“Remind your people of these great facts, and command them in the name of the Lord not to argue over unimportant things. Such arguments are confusing and useless and even harmful… Steer clear of foolish discussions that lead people into the sin of anger with each other” (2 Timothy 2:14-16).
However, this counsel is not limited to those in positions of spiritual leadership. For instance, Paul will go on to offer some additional insight on this subject in the book of 2 Timothy…
“God’s people must not be quarrelsome; they must be gentle, patient teachers of those who are wrong. Be humble when you are trying to teach those who are mixed up concerning the truth. For if you talk meekly and courteously to them, they are more likely, with God’s help, to turn away from their wrong ideas and believe what is true” (2 Timothy 2:24-25).
We get some more good counsel from the Old Testament book of Proverbs…
“Do not envy a violent man or choose any of his ways, for the Lord detests a perverse man but takes the upright into his confidence” (Proverbs 3:31-32).
It is seldom easy to interact with those who are quarrelsome, opinionated, or argumentative. For this reason, an elder must not be contentious, especially when interacting with those who exhibit such qualities.