(2020 06 Jun) John the elder

Devotional thoughts for June 2020

(Click here to read Monday Musings ... where I discuss the thinking that led to this article.)

The elder unto the elect lady and her children, whom I love in the truth; and not I only, but also all they that have known the truth (2 John 1:1).

Reading this verse, I get the feeling that John is gathering children onto his lap, affectionately sharing the things of Christ with them. His tone is fatherly — and well it should be. He was old in the world... but he was old in faith more particularly. John did not assert his apostleship when addressing this letter — as was his right. But rather, he used his status as an elder — as a man who had not only “been there and done that” — he had been there and done that with Christ.

Some churches rule by a plurality of elders with the pastor being “the first among equals” (1 Timothy 5:17-22). I prefer this way of doing things over the “Pastor answers only to God” model. We should be cautious about how we use the word “elder,” though. The office of Deacon is well-delineated in the Bible, but the words pastor, elder, and bishop are used more loosely, and they can all refer to what we think of as a pastor today.

But whatever the exact meaning at a point in Scripture, the term “elder” refers to a believer who is a mature and wise spiritual leader — someone who could be (and sometimes is) a church pastor. Now, some churches have a Board of Elders that oversees the business of the church... like a corporation. That is not my favorite model... although I realize that a church has to take care of its organizational burdens. But a church is not about business... and I’d prefer to reserve the term “elder” for spiritual jobs... but that’s just my opinion.

In the social realm, America’s treatment of her elders reveals an unfortunate national characteristic: we are arrogant and disrespectful people. Our youth-oriented culture might attract financial investment, but I fear this will cost us something in the future. Separating elders from the main body of family life — and from society-at-large — can only yield bitter fruit.

Perhaps we’ve left our elders behind because we are hurried, fractured and carried away with life’s maintenance rather than living life itself. We listen to advertisers rather than parents, to psychiatrists rather than pastors, to celebrities rather than elders — and allow the pursuit of money to consume our lives. Is that the way of wisdom? Are those values honorable?

Now, true wisdom is finding Christ. So, a younger person who believes in him is much wiser than an older person who is destined for hell. But this does not eliminate an elder’s value in the church. Just as a carpenter still has value as a carpenter after he becomes a Christian, so it is with older people: they bring “earned wisdom” into their fellowships... and I feel that such people are worth double the honor.

So, imagine John — a man who walked and talked with Jesus! ... a man who described himself as the disciple Jesus loved — and who was uniquely qualified as an apostle to assert his authority over the local church — that such a man appealed to the most common honor at his disposal: he referred to himself as “the elder.” I think that shows some wisdom.

(Mainsail Ministries articles often have a preamble where I discuss the thinking that went into them. These are called Monday Musings — and if you haven’t read the one associated with this article — consider doing so at the following link: 20200601 John the Elder).

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