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Shamed! (1 Timothy 5:20)

Those who sin should be reprimanded in front of the whole church; this will serve as a strong warning to others. (1 Timothy 5:20)

Occasionally you come across a verse in the Bible that causes you to blink before quickly moving on. This is one such verse!

It's embarrassing and shameful enough when we sin but was Paul really suggesting that our sin should be made known to everyone and that we should be reprimanded in front of the whole church? Such a practice would seem to either make for very long church services or very poor attendance!

A good rule of thumb in understanding a difficult verse is to examine the context. If we look back a verse we see that Paul is talking about elders and specifically about elders whose conduct has led to an "accusation confirmed by two or three witnesses".

In other words, Paul is not talking about any sin committed by a church member but a serious accusation of misconduct against an elder. God feels so strongly about right conduct among church leaders, that he expects serious misconduct to be exposed publicly and dealt with accordingly.

While you're not an elder, you are a leader or are preparing for leadership and so, rather than thinking "that doesn't apply to me" and moving on, we look for the principle behind the passage which we can apply to our own situation.

Firstly we see that sin is a serious issue, especially in the life of a leader. It may not be necessary to have your sins exposed to the whole church but it is worth bearing in mind that the way you live has implications for the wider church and especially for those you lead. If you have a lax attitude to conduct and your walk with Jesus, that will show itself in your leadership sooner or later.

The second point we can take from this passage is that leaders need to be held accountable. The ministry leader you report to has a responsibility and even right to ask you about your life and faith. They do this, not so that they might punish you or make an example of you when you sin, but that they might pray for you and encourage you.

If your ministry leader is not doing this, don't wait for them to ask the hard questions. Ask them to help hold you accountable, particularly in areas in which you really struggle. Rather than think less of you for your struggles and failings, your willingness to be held accountable is likely to make them think more highly of you.

Leadership in the church is a great privilege but it is also a great responsibility. The devil would like nothing more than to see you fail and fall. This verse is a reminder of the seriousness of sin's impact and the need to have others hold you accountable so that you might grow spiritually, not only for your own benefit but for the benefit of those you lead.

Reflection

What are the wrong attitudes and actions you struggle with? How might these affect your capacity to lead?

Who is the best person to hold you accountable and what can you do to ensure this happens?