What does it mean to be above reproach? For the longest time, I thought that it meant that leaders were in an untouchable space. To be a leader meant that you were not to be criticized at all. I interpreted the wording akin to “above the law”. People who think they are above the law do not believe they are held accountable for their actions and decisions.
Over the years, I have learned that I was not alone in that interpretation. In fact, quite a few people understand it to mean the same.
Several years ago, I had an opportunity to take a college class on Christian leadership that broke down these requirements, in 1 Timothy 3, for the Office of the Overseer. The way it was explained to me was that being above reproach was not suggesting that we as leaders were part of an untouchable group. Instead, it meant that our behavior should be such that there would be no need for reproach. In other words, that our integrity and reputation should hold weight against any accusations thrown our way. So that, anyone who hears them would dismiss them immediately.
We all know that is impossible for even the best leaders to live perfectly, we are all human and humans make mistakes. But when our character’s good attributes weigh so heavy, our mistakes are accepted as such versus a character flaw.
If you are a person who always keeps your promises, and you slip up and forget once… you are going to receive grace over that mistake because it is the exception and not the norm.
In an ideal world, being above reproach should be enough. But not always. The key here is that if you are accused by one person, the majority of people will disregard it because they know you to be a leader of integrity. Part of that integrity is owning up to your mistakes before you need to be called out on them, and making them right before you are asked to.
If you have made an error that requires rebuke or correction, if you have behaved in a way that is met with disapproval, or speak in a manner that is disappointing… and you deal with it head on, accepting responsibility, correcting your course, or making amends; you are behaving in a manner that is above reproach. Rarely are people disappointed and disapproving of a leader who admits when they are wrong, and moves forward in a spirit of reconciliation or correction. In fact, it often adds to your character.
To be above reproach means that you take your role seriously, and you understand the gravity of the position you have been trusted with. You lead with integrity and honesty.